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Alcoholism Drug Shows Promise in Three Danish Studies

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An experimental drug to treat alcohol dependence has shown promising results in three clinical trials in Denmark. The company is now submitting the drug for approval in Europe, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The drug, nalmefene, was tested for its effectiveness in reducing a person’s craving for alcohol. Unlike current drug treatments for alcoholism, nalmefene can be taken with alcohol. Nalmefene blocks a craving mechanism that is regulated by the brain’s opioid receptors, according to the article. Other currently available drugs that treat alcoholism discourage drinking by causing unpleasant side effects when a person drinks even a little bit of alcohol.

The three studies included a total of 2,000 people with alcohol dependence. Half were given nalmefene and half were given a placebo, on an ‘as-needed’ basis, according to a news release by the company, Lundbeck A/S. The study found the drug reduced heavy drinking days and total alcohol consumption within the first month of treatment. The improvement was maintained throughout the yearlong study, according to the company. The most common side effects were dizziness, insomnia and nausea.

The company is not currently planning to request approval for the drug in the United States because it is an older drug and does not have strong patent U.S. patent protection, the article states.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Doug Moser / June 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks Alan. Informative and helpful. DM

  2. Alan Wartenberg MD / June 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Naltrexone is also available for the last several years as a once monthly intramuscular injection, Vivitrol.

  3. Alan Wartenberg MD / June 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Nalmefene is neither new, nor very different, nor is the above accurate regarding drugs that can be taken with alcohol. Nalmefene is one more orally absorbed opioid antagonist, and has the same properties as naltrexone, which has been available, as Trexan and Revia, for over 15 years. Naltrexone can be taken with alcohol, as can Acamprosate, which has been available for over 8 years in the US.

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