Pill to help alcoholics stop at one drink may be on the way

on 23/12/10 at 10:07 am

Booze News

The first pill designed to curb a person’s urge to have more than a few drinks at a sitting is undergoing tests in Europe, promising doctors and public-health authorities a new approach to fighting alcoholism.

The drug, nalmefene from H. Lundbeck A/S in Valby, Denmark, blocks brain signals that make activities such as sex and drinking feel good. Should trials succeed, the medicine may win clearance in Europe as early as 2012, becoming the first new alcoholism treatment approved there in more than 15 years.

While the drugs now sold are used to prevent relapses after people quit drinking, nalmefene is aimed at reducing consumption without the abstinence that Alcoholics Anonymous and other treatment programs say is necessary. This less-strict approach may drive more abusers to seek treatment for the first time, said Adron Harris, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Waggoner Center for Alcohol & Addiction Research.

“A major problem among alcohol abusers is that many are not interested in seeking treatment, perhaps because they do not want to accept the goal of complete abstinence,” Harris said.

The drug’s effects may prove greater on public health than on Lundbeck. Peter Welford, a London-based analyst at Jefferies International Ltd., said nalmefene may have peak sales for alcohol dependence of about $60 million a year, in 2018. That’s equivalent to a fraction of the $2.57 billion in total revenue for the company last year.

Welford’s estimate was held down by uncertainty over what price Lundbeck could demand and whether health-care providers would embrace a drug-based approach to treatment, he said.

{Full story via Bloomberg}

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