Quit-Smoking Drug May Curb Alcoholism
Smoking-Cessation Drug Chantix Reduces Drinking in Lab Tests on Alcoholic Rats
Alcoholism Experts Weigh In
The Chantix findings "look very promising," Marcus Heilig, MD, PhD,
Heilig is the clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He wasn't involved in Bartlett's lab tests and is
working to develop other new alcoholism drugs.
"Lately, neuroscience has been bringing forward a number of interesting
new candidate targets, but that's just a fraction of the job," Heilig
"There are all these enormous hurdles of bringing molecules forward that
will hit those targets and will make it all the way to the clinic. And that's
compounded by the fact that industry doesn't necessarily always want to pursue
development in this area. Well, here's a compound that's already passed all
those hurdles," he says of Chantix.
"We know that it [Chantix] is safe and well tolerated, and that --
combined with the promise of some efficacy for reduction of heavy alcohol
drinking -- is enormously encouraging," says Heilig.
However, he says it's very rare to find a drug that's a "magic
bullet" against complex, chronic disorders such as alcoholism.
"For complex, chronic disorders, we need a range of therapies and then
once we get that range, we need to figure out which patients benefit the most
from which [therapies]," says Heilig.
Chantix Not Ready for Alcoholism Treatment
Heilig's NIAAA colleague, Howard Moss, MD, cautions people not to use
Chantix for alcoholism treatment yet.
"We eagerly await the clinical trial to see if it actually works in
humans," Moss tells WebMD. "I just want to be sure that people
understand that they shouldn't just try this on their own."
Bartlett's study "is pretty exciting," says Moss, who is the
associate director for clinical and translational research at the National
Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
"But there have been occasions where medications have worked great in
animal models but have failed to live up to their promise in humans," says
In June, Moss and colleagues identified five subtypes of alcoholics -- and
more than half of U.S. alcoholics are young adults.
At the time, Moss told WebMD that people who suspect they may have a problem
with alcohol to talk about it with their health care provider, since alcohol
dependence "must be viewed as a severe disease."