'Anti-alcoholism' drug clears key test hurdle

March 20, 2012

A drug designed to treat nervous spasms has cleared an important early test in a project to see whether it can also cure alcoholism, French doctors said on Tuesday.

Baclofen -- the lab name for a medication branded as Kemstro, Lioresal and Gablofen -- was successful in a preliminary test among a small group of alcoholics, a result that opens the way to formal clinical trials, they said.

The history of the drug goes back 50 years. It was originally designed for epilepsy before becoming licensed to treat spasticity, but researchers are now interested in using it to ease alcoholic craving.

Interest was sparked in 2008 by a book, Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass), by cardiologist Olivier Ameisen, who self-treated his alcoholism with high doses of baclofen.

The entailed enrolling 132 who were given baclofen at high doses over a year.

Eighty percent either became abstinent or became . By comparison, two drugs that are commonly used to treat alcoholics, naltrexon and acamprosate, yield a success rate of 20-25 percent.

Side effects included fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, dizziness and digestive troubles.

Lead researcher Philippe Jaury of the University of Paris-Descartes said the outcome opened the door to one-year clinical trials, expected to start in May, in which 320 alcoholics would be divided into two groups.

One batch will receive baclofen, progressively building in dosage until the craving symptoms subside, while the others will receive an inactive lookalike pill, or placebo.

France's health system is paying 750,000 euros ($469,000) of the 1.2-million-euro ($1.45-million) cost of the trial, and an unidentified donor is paying the rest, Jaury told AFP.

The pre-trial study is published in a specialist journal, and Alcoholism.

Explore further: Researchers identify alcoholism subtypes

Related Stories

Researchers identify alcoholism subtypes

June 28, 2007

Analyses of a national sample of individuals with alcohol dependence (alcoholism) reveal five distinct subtypes of the disease, according to a new study by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ...

Acamprosate prevents relapse to drinking in alcoholism

September 8, 2010

Acamprosate reduces the number of patients being treated for alcoholism who return to drinking, according to a new Cochrane Systematic Review. The drug showed moderate benefits in trials when used in addition to non-drug ...

New leads on the causes of alcoholism

April 4, 2011

In order to develop new medications for alcoholism, researchers need to understand how alcohol acts on the brain's reward system. A previously unknown mechanism has been shown to block the rewarding effects of alcohol on ...

Recommended for you

Brain damage during stroke may point to source of addiction

September 8, 2015

A pair of studies suggests that a region of the brain - called the insular cortex - may hold the key to treating addiction. Scientists have come to this conclusion after finding that smokers who suffered a stroke in the insular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.