Tests begin on pill that curbs drinking

A drug in development reduces the feelings of pleasure that come from alcohol.

By Kim Peterson Dec 23, 2010 2:48PM
Beer © CorbisTests are under way on a pill that may curb binge drinking while still allowing a person one or two cocktails.

The pill, called nalmefene, is made by H. Lundbeck A/S (HLUKY), a drugmaker that pulls in most of its revenue from the anti-anxiety drug Cipralex. Nalmefene blocks brain signals that make drinking and sex feel good, Bloomberg reports.

Some people are interested in this as a treatment for alcoholics, many of whom simply don't want to stop drinking. People can still drink with nalmefene, but they won't feel any pleasure from doing so.

"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," one addiction researcher told Bloomberg.

That leads to big question surrounding nalmefene: Can you treat alcoholism with a drug that still allows people to drink? Post continues after video:
Some caregivers said they've seen addicts try to curb drinking with naltrexone, a generic drug that blocks the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that allows you to feel pleasure. But one physician told Bloomberg that the drug doesn't really curb alcoholic intake.

Nalmefene is similar to naltrexone.

But other physicians say the abstinence-only approach leaves millions of people untreated. With nalmefene, "little by little, it decreases the craving for alcohol, and the person learns to control the alcohol problem," said the person coordinating Lundbeck's testing in Finland. "It's a very much needed medicine."

Analysts don't think nalmefene will have much of an impact on Lundbeck's bottom line. One told Bloomberg that the peak sales for nalmefene could be only about $60 million a year. Lundbeck raked in nearly $2.6 billion in revenue last year.

Dec 24, 2010 7:22PM
Once again, the american way of handling the issue/ crisis... treating the symptom not the disease.
Dec 23, 2010 11:42PM
"Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced upon them by alcohol." From the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous" in the chapter titled, "The Doctor's Opinion." Only about one in ten folks who drink have a problem with it. Abstinence is the only solution for them but only about one in thirty of them achieve success with that. The other 29 die from the unintended consequences of their drinking. Cirrohsis(sic), pancreatitus, car wreck, suicide, shot by a jealous husband/wife/boy or girlfriend, etc. If there's no effect there's no reason to drink and the folks who can't quit going for the effect will continue the carnage on our highways and in our homes. Society needs to step in and convince these problem drinkers by the sternest measures imaginable that they need to change their ways. Pills, shots or whatever are not going to cut it. I'm one of those people who would say, "Wow! If one pill can do that; what would TWO pills do?"
Dec 30, 2010 8:35AM
But still, I read somewhere that people who took the pill, consumed 40% less alcohol than before. That shouldn´t be left out of consideration.

The aim is not that one should stop alcohol consumption completely, but to be able to reduce it to a "healthy" level.
Dec 25, 2010 8:58PM
Not all alcoholics drink for pleasure. It may have started out that way, but many are at the point they must drink to function and maintain so as to avoid the painful and dreaded withdrawal from alcohol. I've seen an alcoholic dry out and it's terrifying and very similar to kicking heroin; tremendously physically and emotionally difficult. SOmeone in that position is going to have to decide on their own to go through withdrawal to quit completely, not take a pill since the alcoholics I'm referring to are the ones who really don't enjoy the drink anymore but need it, physically, to get through a day because they aren't ready to detox. An alcoholic can't just have 1 or 2 drinks like this pill would allow. Also, no where in this article did I read that it was considered a "cure (someone mentioned that in their comment.) There's no cure for alcoholism. You're always an alcoholic/addict. One just might be recovering, clean and sober and fight everyday to stay that way. I find this pill, and the money funneled in to study it, to be an utter waste of time. Lets stop cutting community behavioral health treatment center funding instead.
Dec 25, 2010 7:16PM
I think it is very INTERESTING that this article seems to "skip over" the fact that this drug blocks the brain signals that make sex feel good. Somehow, I think this is incredibly important! Who wants to take a drug that stops the pleasurable feelings of sex?
Dec 25, 2010 1:34PM
The Alcoholic has a mental obsession and a physical craving that is beyond there control. It is not a matter of will power. You can give the Alcoholic all the pills you want but a pill to take away the pleasure is like giving a person with a broken leg a pain killer, the leg is still broken even if the pain is gone. The Alcoholic is still a Alcoholic even if the pleasure is gone. Bottles are only symbols. Take away the bottle and you have a dry drunk. Most people would rather have the wet one back, ask a Al-Anon they have lived with both. Try reading chapter 11 in the Big Book, A Vision For You. You can do that on line. Learn something about Alcoholics before you try to say what is good or bad for them. There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.
Dec 25, 2010 12:54PM
This is about the DUMBEST idea I have ever heard of-except as another way for the drug companies to make even more money...
Dec 25, 2010 12:21PM
Every little bit helps, but the article didn't provide much detail.
Dec 25, 2010 10:20AM
Having seen the effects up close and personal, any type of resistance to drinking is better than the will power of most people in the grasp of alcohol. Most lack the determation to quit, but may have the desire to do so. With a bit of a push with a new drug perhaps a few wil be able to beat the dependancy of having to live life on a daily basis, with alcohol. Not only does it forever ruin their life, but has a long lasting affect on those around them, from the violence to the lack of daily life interactions. An old quote rings fairly true, Life is for people who can not deal with drugs, drugs are for people who can not deal with life.
Dec 25, 2010 10:07AM

I agree this is too vague of an article to base staunch opinions. I haven’t had a drink in 3 1/2 yrs. I will state that AA isn’t for everyone but thank god for that "CULT" because it has helps me stay sober. This pill worries me because this still allows people to drink when the ultimate goal of someone who has a problem with alcohol is to stop.. Completely. So do these people have to take this pill their whole life? Many alcoholics drink to become drunk and continue to do so till they are drunk. This could be dangerous - one could drink and drink waiting to feel drunk - potentially causing alcohol poisoning and physical dependence, among other things. And they state this pill will curb the pleasure of sex.. are you kidding me?? Who would want to take this? A lot of alcoholics drink because they are depressed about one thing or another and it sounds like this pill will just leave one feeling more depressed. How many people taking this pill are going to think they can get behind the wheel?

Dec 25, 2010 8:38AM
 Here we go,this is too vague an article to base such staunch opinions.Ignorance rarely prevents such from posting on these sites. I haven't had a snort in 16yrs.yet I believe in anything that may turn an alcoholic away from his drinking.Maybe,just long enough that they might glimpse a better way,like the booze does'nt get me where it use to,maybe I'll quit, or right,I'll just quit taking this crap.Alcoholics can be complicated,but it's worth a shot.
Dec 25, 2010 1:29AM
Irp84, If what I wrote is the most ridiculous comment you've ever read you must not get out much. The point is that if a rabid dog were to run through your neighborhood and a neighbor stepped out and shot it dead, you and all the other folks would thank him from saving you all from a clear and present danger. Me, drunk, driving through your neigborhood become the same kind of danger and society would be within its rights taking whatever action is necessary to protect itself from me. Until we stop giving drunks a pass until they kill someone we, as a society, are getting nowhere with the alcohol problem in the world.
Dec 24, 2010 10:33PM

What kind of a moron came to the errant conclusion that a practicing alcoholic would willingly take this pill? A recovering alcoholic wouldn't need to. So what good is it? It might work if an armed guard stuffed it down the alki's throat everyday..........


The firm will probably sell a few bottles to the WIVES of alkis though. They're always hoping for a miracle.

Dec 24, 2010 9:25PM

my name is patrick and im an alcoholic.  if you give someone a drug that limits the feeling of alcohol,and someone who likes to drink keeps drinking tries to consume more out of habit or physical addiction keeps drinkink9ing,  wont they overdose?  the body has natural responses to alcohol poisining, like throwing up or passing out.  i dont see this as a cure!  i see this as something that will kill alcoholics faster than just being an alcoholic!  what about those kids who idolize drinking, you know, party kids.  what if some kid wants to out drink his buddies and takes this drug.  he deosnt feel the effects but his boday sure deos.  what happens when he goes into alcohol poisening.  he wont feel drunk but he will die of being drunk!


i dont know everything.  but i do believe that abstinenceis the only way to RECOVER!


Dec 24, 2010 8:55PM

in response to DRAMericA17 You obviously have not loved an alcoholic.  It is a devastating disease that affects everyone a round them.  If this would help those people, then why not try anything if maybe it work and make life better for everyone.

Dec 24, 2010 8:14PM
There are so many problems with treating alcoholism with nalmefene it's hard to know where to start. First, nalmefene is an opiate antagonist not a dopamine antagonist. So let's say that the drug blocks the effects of endorphins in the alcoholic brain. There are other actions of alcohol on other neurotransmitters (NT) that will not be affected: GABA, glutamate, and dopamine to name three.  Since no one is sure which NT's are involved in craving and the loss of control that makes it hard for the alcoholic to stop, it's unlikely that nalmephene will solve the problem. Second, since recovering alcoholics need to find non-drinking activities to give them pleasure, blocking pleasure pathways to natural reinforces is not a good idea. Third, since alcoholism involves the whole person, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually, treating just the physical leaves the other elements of alcoholism untreated. Have you ever known anyone who just quits drinking and does nothing else to change his/her lifestyle? Are they not miserable? Think George W Bush. If the drug can make drinking less rewarding and the alcoholic stops drinking that would be great, but only as a start to recovery. Abstinence is not recovery.
Dec 24, 2010 7:16PM
If I like the effects of alcohol and I abuse the stuff and I don't want to stop, why on earth would I voluntarily take a pill that would mess that all up?
Dec 24, 2010 5:03PM
Dennyo126, that's the most ridiculous comment I've ever read! While I agree, you need to HELP an alcoholic to change their ways, you can't MAKE them do so! You can't help somebody who isn't willing to help themselves! So if this pill is able to curb a person's feeling then I am all for it! If they don't get the "pleasure" out of drinking, why would they continue to do it?
Dec 25, 2010 6:00AM
AA is a cult that believes that their 12 steps are the only solution's to sobriety. All the people in this blog that are against this type of pill believe in the 'Dry Drunk' and 'Disease' theories. Most people in AA have a weak mind and constitution and rely on this archaic form of treatment that only has a marginal success rate.
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