Fighting alcoholism is not easy, but the challenge can be more bearable if you have good pharmacological help. An unexpected finding reveals that a drug used for something else is surprisingly effective at reducing the urge to drink alcohol.
A team including Kolter Grigsby and Angela Ozburn of Oregon Health and Science University in the United States have identified a pill used to treat a common skin disease as an “incredibly promising” treatment for alcohol addiction. .
Ozburn and his collaborators began by searching a genetic database for chemical compounds that could counteract the expression of genes linked to excessive alcohol consumption. Apremilast, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-inflammatory drug used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, appeared to be a promising candidate.
They then tested it in various animal models covering a wide range of levels of predisposition to drinking, from mild to very great. In each case, apremilast reduced alcohol consumption. They found that apremilast triggered increased activity in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain involved in controlling alcohol intake.
Next, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, United States, tested apremilast in 51 people who were tested over 11 days of treatment.
On average, people who received the medication cut their alcohol consumption by more than half, from five drinks a day to two.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ozburn confesses.
Bottle of an alcoholic drink. (Illustration: Amazings/NCYT)
“The large effect size of apremilast in reducing alcohol consumption, combined with its good tolerability in our participants, suggests that it is an excellent candidate for further evaluation as a novel treatment for people addicted to alcohol,” said Barbara Mason, of the Institute Scripps Research Institute and co-author of the study.
The clinical study was done in people addicted to alcohol who were not seeking any form of treatment for their addiction, and Mason predicts that apremilast may be even more effective among people who want to quit alcohol.
The study is titled “Pre-clinical and clinical evidence for suppression of alcohol intake by apremilast”. And it has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. (Fountain: NCYT by Amazings)