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A team of researchers from Oregon Health & Science University and various institutions nationwide have discovered a medication, commonly used for treating a skin condition, as a highly promising treatment for alcohol use disorder.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Beginning in 2015, Ozburn and collaborators searched a genetic database looking for compounds likely to counteract the expression of genes known to be linked to heavy alcohol use. Apremilast, an FDA-approved anti-inflammatory medication used to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, appeared to be a promising candidate.
They then tested it in two unique animal models that have a genetic of risk for excessive drinking, as well as in other strains of mice at laboratories across the country. In each case, apremilast reduced drinking among a variety of models predisposed to mild to heavy alcohol use. They found that apremilast triggered an increase in activity in the nucleus accumbens, the region of the brain involved in controlling alcohol intake.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, then tested apremilast in people.
The Scripps team conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical proof-of-concept study involving 51 people who were assessed over 11 days of treatment.