A study of alcoholics has revealed that of the two drugs approved for curbing alcoholics' cravings, naltrexone, proved to be little more beneficial than specialized counseling. However the second drug, acamprosate, on the market was not better than a placebo.
Naltrexone, was sold generically in daily pill form under the brand name,ReVia by Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., while acamprosate was, marketed under the brand name Campral by Forest Laboratories Inc.
According to lead author of the research, Dr. Raymond Anton, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston who said 'We were surprised by two findings from our study. One was that acamprosate was no more effective than placebo alone and two, that while naltrexone was effective in its own right, combining it with the specialized counseling added no more effectiveness than naltrexone by itself.'
In effect people could either choose to take naltrexone or to see a specialized counselor who could counsel them about the prevention of a relapse, and dealing with their alcohol addiction.
Naltrexone acts on opiate receptors while acamprosate has its effect on a neurotransmitter. They both have been approved by Food and Drug Administration approval. Naltrexone, made by Alkermes Inc. as an injectable form, to be taken monthly, will be marketed by Cephalon Inc.
The results of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to their estimates there are 8 million alcoholics in the United States.
1,400 alcohol-dependent patients who wanted to stop drinking were the participants of the study. They were divided into groups and treated for 16 weeks.
Some of the participants received drugs, while some received a placebo, and some no pills at all. Besides this most subjects were also medically managed by encouraging them to abstain from alcohol and consistently take their medication. In addition some participants underwent specialized behavioral therapy.
The research evaluated relapses of consumption of several drinks in a day for up to a year.
It was found that subjects who took naltrexone and received management had the highest percentage of days of abstinence. Participants who underwent behavioral treatment in addition to a placebo did just as well.
Following this Anton said 'This study and others have shown that people should be optimistic about treatment for their alcohol problems, that treatment does work.'