Two new resources are available to help both patients and clinicians determine which medicines may be most helpful to them in treating alcohol-use disorder (AUD).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a research agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published a review of 135 studies on medicines to treat alcohol dependence and alcohol-use disorder conducted between 1970 and 2013. The summary is intended to make it easier for physicians and those seeking treatment for AUD to understand and discuss the evidence-based options for treating AUD with medication.

The AHRQ review found moderate evidence that acamprosate (Campral) and oral naltrexone (Revia) improve outcomes for patients with AUD, with neither showing demonstrable superiority over the other. Evidence for the injectable form of naltrexone (Vivitrol) was limited and no conclusions were drawn on its effectiveness. Topiramate (Topamax) was found to improve outcomes for some patients. Study trials reviewed by the AHRQ found no evidence to support the efficacy of disulfiram (Antabuse) in reducing alcohol consumption. Most of the studies looked at medication used in conjunction with psychosocial therapy.  Using medication by itself has not been studied thoroughly enough to evaluate it as a stand-alone treatment.

The two summaries are not intended to serve as clinical recommendations or guidelines, but rather as information resources to make it easier for patients and doctors to discuss treatment options. The summary for clinicians aims to help health care providers understand available treatment options and the current evidence for (or against) them. The summary geared towards patients and their families outlines information about AUD and includes information on side effects and tips on what to ask your doctor when considering medication.

“These new resources, based on the most current research, will help clinicians and patients make informed choices about treatment in accordance with their own wishes and values,” said AHRQ Director Rick Kronick, Ph.D.