Sober thought: Pill to cut alcohol dependency on prescription in UK

Sober thought: Pill to cut alcohol dependency on prescription in UK
Britons who drink half a bottle of wine or three pints a day will be able to get a pill on prescription to reduce their alcohol dependency.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of Nalmefene, also called Selincro, to curb people’s alcohol consumption.

It’s available for people who drink more than the alcohol limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is 7.5 units a day for men and five for women. It’s designed to help patients gradually cut back on their alcohol intake.

The pill is said to lessen the craving to drink and has been licensed for use alongside psychosocial support. Nalmefene costs £42.42 ($67) for a 14-tablet pack.

Some 2.1 million Britons are estimated to be mildly dependent on alcohol. Around 35,000 people are expected to be given the pill in the first year, while also receiving counseling support. The institute said with the help of the drug people can reduce their alcohol intake by up to 1.8 units a day.

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Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre, said: “Many people have a difficult relationship with alcohol even though they have a very stable lifestyle, maintain jobs and a social life and would not automatically assume they have a problem. But regularly drinking over the recommended daily amount of alcohol can seriously damage your health.

“Those who could be prescribed Nalmefene have already taken the first big steps by visiting their doctor, engaging with support services and taking part in therapy programs. We are pleased to be able to recommend the use of Namelfene to support people further in their efforts to fight alcohol dependence.”

Lyndsey Dudley, a spokeswoman for NICE, said the drug would be suitable for people who “probably don’t even recognize themselves as an alcoholic.”

“It is much like a patch that you might wear to give up smoking to support you to cut down on your alcohol intake. Some days you might feel stronger than others,” she added.

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Nalmefene was approved for use in Scotland in October last year. Figures show that only 53 people were prescribed the drug in 2013/14.

Around 1.2 million people were admitted to hospital because of an alcohol-related condition or injury in England in 2012/13. Estimates suggest alcohol-related issues cost the NHS in England £3.5 billion a year.