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Alcoholism Drugs Work In Study That May Dispel Physician Doubts

About18 million Americans suffer from alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse. Now there are drugs being touted as a means of getting those that suffer from the disease more help in combating the problem. “Four medicines to treat alcoholism worked to reduce addiction, a study found, providing evidence that may overcome skepticism and spur greater use of the drugs.Naltrexone, a generic medicine, acamprosate, sold under the brand name Campral by Forest Laboratories Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s seizure medicine Topamax and H. Lundbeck A/S’s Selincro, helped alcoholics reduce their drinking, an analysis of more than 120 studies found. The oldest U.S.-approved alcoholism drug — disulfiram, also known as Antabuse — didn’t prevent a return to drinking, according to today’s research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.About 18 million Americans suffer from alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse, according to the National Institutes of Health. Yet only about a third of alcoholics receive any treatment for their condition and less than 10 percent get medications, said Daniel Jonas, the lead study author.The drugs “are not used as much as they potentially could,” said Jonas, an associate professor of medicine, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, in a telephone interview. “Historically, that’s because of the uncertainty over whether they work. People with alcohol use disorders have serious problems. They need help and they are often not getting help. One piece of the treatment is these medicines.”Yearly Prescriptions Naltrexone interrupts the high of drinking, while acamprosate helps reduce the physical and emotional discomfort felt after a patient stops drinking. Doctors wrote 335,000 prescriptions for naltrexone last year, and 132,000 for acamprosate, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Disulfiram, the drug the study found to be ineffective, generated the second highest-prescriptions at 178,000 last year. Disulfiram makes people sick when they drink so it is difficult to test against a placebo or in randomized trials, the researchers said.Selincro, known also as nalmefene, works by blocking brain signals that make activities such as sex and drinking feel good. The medicine isn’t sold in the U.S. Topamax, which isn’t approved to treat alcoholism, may restore balance in the levels of chemicals released in the brain that are affected by alcoholism.” http://www.news-republic.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=1&articleid=23002181

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