Study: No magic pill for alcohol dependence

Researchers conducted an analysis of previous trials of drugs used to control drinking, finding more than three-quarters had high risk of incomplete outcome data and more than half had high risk of selective reporting.
By Amy Wallace  |  Sept. 21, 2017 at 12:20 PM
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Sept. 21 (UPI) -- A new study has found no reliable evidence for using certain medications to control drinking in patients with alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder.

The study, published Wednesday in Addiction, compared the effects of oral nalmefene, naltrexone, acamprosate, baclofen and topiramate versus a placebo for the treatment of alcohol dependency.

"Although our report is based on all available data in the public domain, we did not find clear evidence of benefit of using these drugs to control drinking," Clement Palpacuer, a researcher at the Society for the Study of Addiction, said in a press release.

The researchers compiled results from 32 randomized control trials of 6,036 patients conducted between 1994 and 2015.

Researchers found that many of the studies provided unreliable results due to the risk of bias, with 81 percent of the studies showing a high risk of incomplete outcome data because of the large number of participant withdrawals.

Approximately 53 percent of the studies showed an unclear or high risk of selective outcome reporting because they did not include a protocol registration number to allow another researcher to determine whether all outcomes were reported.

"[The analysis] doesn't mean the drugs aren't effective; it means we don't yet know if they are effective," Palpacuer said. "To know that, we need better studies. Researchers urgently need to provide policymakers with evidence as to which of these drugs can be effectively translated into a real harm reduction strategy."

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