Alcohol-related health problems cost the NHS in England around £3.5 billion a year, according to recent estimates. This is caused by the 1.2 million hospital admissions recorded in 2012/13 that were because of a booze-related injury.
However, the National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE) has now approved a drug that could help reduce this problem. The medication would be used alongside therapy to help people cut down on the amount of alcohol they consume.
When compared with a placebo, the NICE-approved drug was found to reduce heavy drinking days by 3.2 days/month and cut total alcohol consumption by 1.8 units/day.
It will be recommended for men who drink more than 7.5 units per day and for women who drink at least five units a day. According to the manufacturer's submission, it is expected that this drug could help 35,000 people who are also receiving psychosocial intervention.
Professor Carole Longson, NICE health technology evaluation centre director, said having a difficult relationship with alcohol is common for many people who may otherwise have a very stable lifestyle, maintain jobs and a social life and would not automatically assume they have a problem. However, regularly drinking over the recommended daily amount of alcohol can seriously damage your health, she added.
“Those who could be prescribed nalmefene have already taken the first big steps by visiting their doctor, engaging with support services and taking part in therapy programmes. 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.”
Having patients with alcohol problems taking the drug, alongside emotional support, could significantly decrease the burden of alcoholism on the NHS, as well as reducing the impact on conditions like liver disease and heart problems.
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