A new drug which could help problem drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume will today become available to UK patients.
If dependent drinkers take the drug nalmefene and undergo counselling they can cut their consumption levels by 61%, manufacturers said.
The pill, also known as selincro, has been licensed for use by health officials and will be available for doctors to prescribe to their patients from today.
The drug, which is to be taken once a day, has been licensed for “the reduction of alcohol consumption in adult patients with alcohol dependence without physical withdrawal symptoms and who do not require immediate detoxification”.
While current drugs help patients to become teetotal, nalmefene helps people cut back on the amount they drink by modulating the reward mechanism in the brain.
A clinical trial into the drug helped patients cut the amount they consumed from 12.75 units a day to five units a day.
Patients who underwent counselling as well as taking the drug reduced their “heavy drinking days” from 23 days a month to nine days a month after undergoing the treatment for six months, researchers said.
“The people who we saw in the study were not stereotypical alcoholics. Most of them had families and jobs,” said investigator Dr David Collier, of Barts and The London School of Medicine. “For the majority, only they and those closest to them would have known that they had a problem with drinking.
“The results suggest that nalmefene, in combination with counselling, is a potentially helpful new option for the many people like them who need some assistance in cutting down their drinking.”