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Baclofen Helps Alcoholics with Cirrhosis Stay Abstinent

Randomized trial finds fewer relapses and less liver damage with the drug over placebo

THURSDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with baclofen enables alcoholics with liver cirrhosis to safely maintain abstinence and reduce liver damage, researchers report in the Dec. 8 issue of The Lancet.

Giovanni Addolorato, M.D., of the Catholic University of Rome in Italy, and colleagues randomly assigned 84 alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis to either oral baclofen or placebo for 12 weeks, with a four-week follow-up. Abstinence was assessed by pill counts, self-reports, family-member reports, blood tests and urine tests. Craving was assessed through administration of the obsessive-compulsive drinking scale.

Patients in the baclofen group achieved significantly better total abstinence than patients in the placebo group (71 percent versus 29 percent) and accumulated a greater percentage of non-drinking days (63 days versus 31). Patients in the baclofen group also demonstrated significantly lower craving scores and had significant reductions in clinical markers of liver injury. No hepatic side-effects were reported in the baclofen group.

"The findings of modern clinical trials, such as the one reported by Addolorato and colleagues, should be transferred to primary care settings if these treatments are to substantially affect public health," an accompanying commentary concludes.

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