Is there a pill to stop people drinking alcohol?

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New drug could reduce alcohol consumption

A new pill set to reduce alcohol consumption among problem drinkers could now be made available to NHS patients across England and Wales.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have advised that the drug – Nalmefene – should be made available to people who regularly drink high amounts of alcohol. The pill, which costs £3 per tablet, is already prescribed in Scotland and NICE believe that 600,000 people could be eligible for the drug.

Nalmefene, which is also called Selincro, is taken as a tablet once a day and reduces the urge to drink alcohol. The drug is licensed for use along with psychosocial support. If the drug gets final approval, then it will be made available on the NHS.

Stopping problem drinking

The World Health Organisation defines high alcohol consumption as drinking more than 7.5 units per day for men and more than 5 units per day for women.

Prof Carole Longson, NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre director, told BBC News “We are pleased to be able to recommend the use of namelfene to support people further in their efforts to fight alcohol dependence. When used alongside psychosocial support nalmefene is clinically and cost effective for the NHS compared with psychosocial support alone.”

Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at the University of Stirling, said “The fact that alcohol problems are widespread in society is an important principle for effective policy options such as minimum unit pricing and restrictions on marketing of alcohol. It would be unfortunate if the availability of nalmefene led to a sense that the appropriate response to these widespread problems was for the NHS to medicate large numbers of people, rather than initiating these other more effective and less costly approaches to reduce consumption.”

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