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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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New Drug for Treating Alcoholism

Campral Helps People Abstain From Alcohol

WebMD Health News

July 29, 2004 -- The FDA today approved a new type of drug to treat alcoholism. Campral is the first new drug approved for alcohol abuse in a decade.

Campral is used to keep people alcohol-free once they have stopped drinking. Campral may not work in patients who continue to drink or in patients who abuse other drugs in addition to alcohol.

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease. The consequences of alcoholism are serious and in many cases, life threatening. Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, especially those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx (voice box).

Heavy drinking can also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. Chronic alcoholism affects millions of Americans and continues to be a debilitating disorder that places a tremendous burden on society in terms of health-care costs, lost wages, and personal suffering.

While its mechanism of action is not fully understood, Campral is thought to act on the brain pathways related to alcohol abuse.

In clinical studies, Campral was shown to be safe and effective in alcoholics who had already been detoxified from alcohol, meaning they had already gone through alcohol withdrawal. Campral proved superior to placebo in keeping patients off alcohol. A greater percentage of those treated with Campral continued to abstain from alcohol throughout treatment.

Campral is not addicting and was generally well-tolerated in clinical trials. The most common adverse events reported for patients taking Campral included headache, diarrhea, flatulence, and nausea.

Campral works differently than the anti-alcoholism drug Antabuse. Since Antabuse blocks alcohol metabolism, it can cause a very toxic reaction when an alcoholic takes a drink. Campral does not have this effect and appears to help decrease the desire to drink.

Campral is not meant to be used alone and should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes psychosocial support, the FDA says.


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