Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ondansetron May Be Effective in Treating Alcoholism in Certain Populations, Study Finds

Taking a more personalized approach to treatment for mental illness, several studies are investigating whether patients’ genetic makeup can help physicians more effectively treat chronic illnesses, including substance use disorders. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry titled "Determination of Genotype Combinations That Can Predict the Outcome of the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence Using the 5-HT3 Antagonist Ondansetron" showed that ondansetron—a FDA-approved nausea medication—can help treat alcohol dependence among a certain population with serotonergic protein variances.

Researchers at the University of Virginia divided 283 alcohol-dependent subjects into two groups—one group received ondansetron and the other received placebo. Participants were tested for 21 polymorphisms for the HTR3A and HTR3B genes—subunits of serontonin-3 receptors (5-HT3)—in addition to variances in the serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4. Drinking days and days abstained from alcohol were evaluated.

Results showed that ondansetron participants with specific polymorphisms for HTR3A/HTR3B genes had a 20 percent lower incidence of heavy drinking days and were twice as likely to abstain from alcohol as were those with the same polymorphisms taking placebo. In addition, a subpopulation of individuals carrying a combined genotype variance for SLC6A4 and HTR3A/HTR3B were able to reduce drinking days by 34 percent while taking ondansetron, whereas individuals expressing SLC6A4 variances alone reduced drinking days by 20 percent.

“The era of personalized medicine by which we can target subpopulations of those with alcohol dependence for optimum treatment effect has arrived,” Bankole Johnson, M.D., lead author and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, told Psychiatric News. He noted that more clinical trials are needed to replicate the current findings.

For more about this study, see the Psychiatric News article “Genes May Determine Drug’s Alcohol-Treatment Success.”

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