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Injectable drug, combined with counseling, shows promise in treating alcohol dependence

(Philadelphia, PA) -- Alcohol dependence is a major public health problem, ranking as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease project. In the United States, it is believed to contribute to more than 100,000 preventable deaths a year. Now, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in conjunction with 23 other sites nationwide, have found that long-acting injections of the drug naltrexone, when added to counseling, significantly reduced heavy drinking in patients being treated for alcohol dependence.

Study results show that the median number of heavy-drinking days was reduced from 19 days in the month prior to the study to three days per month over the six months of treatment. The results will be published in the April 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"It is so important that our field find new treatments for alcohol dependence," says Helen Pettinati, PhD, Research Professor in Penn's Department of Psychiatry, Director, Treatment Research Division in the Center for the Study of Addictions, and lead investigator for Penn's component of the trial. "Long-acting naltrexone represents a promising new development for treatment, and I hope that it can play a role in helping the large number of individuals in the U.S. who suffer from alcohol dependence."

Naltrexone was approved in pill form by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1994 for treating alcohol dependence. It belongs to a class of drugs called opioid antagonists, for treating alcohol dependence. Although many clinical trials have shown that oral naltrexone can be effective in treating alcohol dependence, its use in clinical practice has been limited, in part because the drug was given as a pill that patients have to take daily.

"Alcoholism is a serious disease that destroys lives. As we learn more about how the brain is affected by alcohol, we are disc
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Contact: Ed Federico
ed.federico@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
5-Apr-2005


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