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Ondansetron Helps Alcoholics With Select Genes Cut Back

Ondansetron most effective for alcoholics with specific genotype in serotonin transporter gene

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Ondansetron can be used to reduce severe drinking and to increase the number of days of abstinence in alcoholics with specific polymorphisms in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene, according to a study published online Jan. 19 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Bankole A. Johnson, M.D., D.Sc., from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and colleagues randomized 283 alcoholics in a double-blind controlled trial. Participants underwent genotyping in the serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5'-HTTLPR) of the 5-HTT gene (LL/LS/SS), and for a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (T/G) rs1042173 in the 3' untranslated region. Participants received 4 µg/kg ondansetron twice daily or placebo for 11 weeks, and standard cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Among ondansetron recipients with the LL genotype, the number of drinks per drinking day was lower and the percentage of days of abstinence was higher compared with individuals with the LL genotype who received the placebo, or with individuals with LS or SS genotype who were treated with ondansetron. The 5-HTT genotype and rs1042173 polymorphism interacted significantly. LL/TT individuals treated with ondansetron had the lowest number of drinks and highest number of days of abstinence compared with all other genotype and treatment groups.

"Our findings show that ondansetron is a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of severe drinking among alcohol-dependent individuals with the LL genotype of the 5'-HTTLPR," the authors write.

Several of the study authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry; and the University of Virginia has applied for patents for the use of medication to treat alcoholism.

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