Researchers have found that a pill used to treat psoriasis may also hold promise for alcohol use disorder. The corresponding study was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Around 95, 000 people in the US die from alcohol-related deaths each year. In 2019, around 14.5 million people aged 12 and older in the US had alcohol use disorder- the impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse consequences in various spheres of life. Currently, three medications are approved in the US to treat the condition.
In the present study, researchers searched a genetic database for compounds likely to counteract the expression of genes linked to heavy alcohol use. From their search, they identified Apremilast, an FDA-approved anti-inflammatory medication used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, as a potential candidate.
To begin, they tested the drug on mice genetically engineered to have an increased risk for excessive alcohol consumption alongside other mouse strains. Apremilast reduced drinking behavior among a variety of mice predisposed to mild to heavy alcohol use. The drug reduced excessive alcohol consumption among mouse models of stress-facilitated drinking and alcohol dependence.
From further tests, they found that the drug triggered increased activity n the nucleus accumbent, a part of the brain involved in controlling alcohol intake.
Next, the researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study involving 51 people for 11 days of treatment. Apremilast was well-tolerated in patients and reduced excessive drinking behavior.
“Apremilast’s large effect size on reducing drinking, combined with its good tolerability in our participants, suggests it is an excellent candidate for further evaluation as a novel treatment for people with alcohol use disorder,” said co-senior author Barbara Mason, Ph.D., Pearson Family professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research in a press release.
Sources: EurekAlert, The Journal of Clinical Investigation