Washington, June 10 : A clinical trial by addiction experts at the University of Virginia Health System has shown that topiramate is an effective therapeutic agent that not only decreases heavy drinking but also diminishes the physical and psychosocial harm caused by alcohol dependence.
The researchers say that their findings could pave the way for new treatments for alcoholism.
"What we've found is that topiramate treats the alcohol addiction, not just the 'symptom' of drinking," says lead author Professor Bankole Johnson, D.Sc., M.D., Ph.D., M.Phil., FRCPsych., chairman of the UVa Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences.
The results of the 14-week trial, which involved 371 male and female diagnosed alcoholics, indicates that topiramate was more efficacious than placebo in decreasing body mass index (BMI) and all liver enzymes including the log plasma a-glutamyl-transferase ratio, which is the objective marker of heavy drinking.
Researchers found that Topiramate was considerably more efficacious than placebo in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by a mean difference of 9.70 mm Hg and 6.74 mm Hg, respectively.
Topiramate also significantly lowered plasma cholesterol levels by an average of 16.4 mg/dL compared with a reduction of 5.7 mg/dL with placebo.
These combined effects suggested that topiramate might decrease the risk of heart disease in alcohol dependent individuals.
"Many alcoholics have hypertension, and some receive anti-hypertensive medication, which can complicate their treatment for alcoholism. Because topiramate can reduce drinking substantially and decrease blood pressure significantly, this allows one medication to be given instead of several," Johnson said.
The study showed that by decreasing liver enzymes and cholesterol levels, topiramate also might reduce the risk of fatty liver disease, which leads to cirrhosis - a common consequence to end-stage liver disease leading to death in alcoholics.
Also, topiramate significantly contributed to a decline in obsessive thoughts and compulsions about using alcohol.
Topiramate also had a greater quality of life improvement than placebo in general activities, leisure activities and household duties, as well as a reduction in sleep disturbances.
Although, the Food and Drug Administration has approved topiramate for seizures and migraine headaches, it is not currently approved for treating alcohol dependence.
The study is published in the June 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.