No magic pill to cure alcohol dependence yet

A new study published by the scientific journal Addiction has found no reliable evidence for using nalmefene, naltrexone, acamprosate, baclofen or topiramate to control drinking in patients with alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder. At best, some treatments showed low to medium efficacy in reducing drinking, but those findings were from studies with a high risk of bias. None demonstrated any benefit on health outcomes.

The study pooled the results from 32 double-blind randomised controlled trials representing 6,036 patients, published between 1994 and 2015. The studies compared the effects of oral nalmefene (n=9), naltrexone (n=14), acamprosate (n=1), baclofen (n=4) and topimarate (n=4) against placebo.

Many of the studies provided unreliable results due to risk of bias (potential exaggeration of the effects of the drug). Twenty-six studies (81%) showed an unclear or high risk of incomplete outcome data due to the large number of withdrawals. Seventeen studies (53%) showed an unclear or a high risk of selective outcome reporting, as they did not include a protocol registration number, which would allow another researcher to check whether all outcomes were reported.

Public Health Officials Urge Doctors to Consider Medications to Treat Alcohol Addiction

Public health officials are urging doctors to consider prescribing medications to treat alcohol addiction, NPR reports. The drugs can be used alongside or in place of peer-support programs.

“We want people to understand we think AA is wonderful, but there are other options,” said George Koob, Director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He says there are two drugs on the market for patients with alcohol cravings, naltrexone and acamprosate. “They’re very safe medications, and they’ve shown efficacy,” he said.

Full story of doctors to treat alcohol addiction at drugfree.org

Medications to Help People Stop Drinking Rarely Prescribed

A new study finds two medications that can help people quit drinking are rarely used. The drugs, naltrexone and acamprosate, could be helping many thousands of people, the researchers say.

The drugs reduce alcohol cravings. They have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating alcoholism for more than a decade, The New York Times reports. Many doctors are not aware of the drugs’ usefulness, or question their effectiveness, the article notes.

The researchers reviewed data on about 23,000 people in 122 studies. They concluded that in order to prevent one person from returning to drinking, the number needed to take acamprosate was 12, and the number needed to take naltrexone was 20. In contrast, large studies of widely-used drugs such as cholesterol-lowering statins have found that 25 to more than 100 people need treatment to prevent one heart event.

Full story of medications to stop drinking at drugfree.org