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Alcohol-misuse 'wonder drug' is ineffective

Tuesday February 27th, 2018

A so-called “wonder drug” for alcohol use disorders is no more effective than a placebo, according to a new UK study.

Baclofen has been used since the 1970s as an anti-spasticity treatment, but has been used increasingly over the past few years to treat alcohol use disorders.

However, Dr Abi Rose and Dr Andy Jones, from the University of Liverpool’s Addiction Research Team, have questioned its efficacy after conducting a meta-analysis on all 12 clinical trials that compare baclofen with placebo on at least one of the described drinking outcomes of: craving, anxiety, or depression.

Writing in Addiction, they say that baclofen was found to lead to higher abstinent rates compared with placebo, and that eight individuals would need to be treated with baclofen for one to remain abstinent due to the medication.

However, baclofen did not increase the number of abstinent days or decrease the number of heavy drinking days during treatment. The researchers also found that the drug did not reduce rates of alcohol craving, anxiety or depression.

Dr Rose said: "Our research highlights several issues with the existing body of trials. Many of the studies only recruited a limited number of patients, so maybe too small to find an effect.

"The existing trials also differ on a number of factors, such as the dose of baclofen given and the length of treatment. Importantly, the pharmacokinetics of baclofen are not well-understood, so there may be individual factors influencing the effectiveness of baclofen that we do not yet understand.

"This new meta-analysis shows that baclofen is no more effective than placebo on a range of key outcome measures, suggesting that the current increasing use of baclofen as a treatment for alcohol use disorders is premature."

Rose A, Jones A. Baclofen: its effectiveness in reducing harmful drinking, craving, and negative mood. A meta-analysis. Addiction 26 February 2018; doi: 10.1111/add.14191

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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