Psoriasis Drug Shows Promise for Problem Drinkers, Study Shows

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Feb. 22, 2023 -- Researchers have discovered that a medicine used to treat itchy skin can help control Alcohol Use Disorders, according to a new study.

People who took the medication in an experiment reduced drinking by more than half, from five drinks a day to two, said the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Previous research had shown a link between the enzyme phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), particularly the subtype PDE4b, and alcohol and nicotine dependence.

One of the newer PDE4 inhibitors, apremilast, is an anti-inflammatory drug that treats psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and is marketed as Otezla. 

Through their experiments on mice, the researchers found that apremilast acted on the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain that processes incoming reward and reinforcement stimuli related to addictive drugs, sex, and exercise, the science website New Atlas reported.

They found that the drug reduced excessive alcohol intake in mice across a range of situations, including binge drinking, compulsive, and stress- and non-stress-induced drinking.

Researchers then conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on people with Alcohol Use Disorder. The drug was given orally. On average among participants who received it, drinking fell by more than half.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said co-senior author Angela Ozburn, PhD of Oregon Health & Science University. “This is incredibly promising for treatment of addiction in general.”

Importantly, the clinical study’s participants were not actively seeking any form of treatment for excessive alcohol consumption. Co-senior author, Barbara Mason, PhD, considers that apremilast may be even more effective in those motivated to address their problem drinking.

“Apremilast’s large effect size on reducing drinking, combined with its good tolerability in our participants, suggests that it is an excellent candidate for further evaluation as a novel treatment for people with alcohol use disorder,” Mason said.