"Trials targeting treatment of biological abnormalities herald a new vista in the alcoholism field"
Dr Bankole Johnson
Dr Bankole Johnson and his team at the University of Texas, compared ondansetron with placebo in 271 diagnosed alcoholics.
After one lead-in week of single-blind placebo, patients were randomly assigned to receive 11 weeks of treatment with ondansetron, 1 µg/kg (n = 67), 4 µg/kg (n = 77), or 16 µg/kg (n = 71) twice per day; or identical placebo (n = 56).
Patients reported their daily alcohol consumption and were regularly tested for plasma carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT), an indicator of transient alcohol consumption.
Patients with early onset alcoholism who were taking ondansetron, had fewer drinks and more days without drinking than patients taking placebo.
4 µg/kg twice per day was the most effective dose of ondansetron, with patients having only 1.56 drinks per day on the treatment, compared with 3.30 drinks per day for placebo.
CDT levels were also significantly lower in the ondansetron 4 µg/kg group compared with placebo.
The researchers stress that ondansetron is only effective for early-onset alcoholism. The drug does not effect the drinking habits of late-onset alcoholics.
Early-onset alcoholism is associated with abnormal serotonin levels. Ondansetron, a selective 5-HT3 (serotonin) antagonist, is believed to control early-onset alcoholism by treating an underlying serotogenic abnormality.