Hundreds of thousands of Brits who consume half a bottle of wine every night are to be put on a brand new drug, nalmefene in a bid to help reduce their alcohol consumption. In order to qualify for the treatment, a drinker would need to be consuming 7.5 UK units per day - approximately three pints for men and two large glasses of wine for women.
It is estimated that there are currently 750,000 people in the UK who would be eligible for the drug and will be prescribed to those who do not cut down on their drinking within two weeks of speaking to their GP about it. GPs will actively be asking patients about their alcohol consumption even when they see them for unrelated health matters.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has explained that the drug will be taken when people feel the urge to have a drink and works by stopping them from wanting more than one. The plan is set to cost £288 million per year but is predicted to save nearly 2,000 lives over five years and prevent just over 43,000 alcohol-related diseases and injuries over the same period.
The announcement has been met with mixed reactions with Professor Mark Bellis from the Faculty of Public Health commenting:
“Once again this is going to increase pressure on the NHS when there are other alternatives that would reduce pressure on health services. We need to think very carefully about how we use limited resources and prescribe for people who with relatively simple population interventions such as reducing advertising and minimum unit price could quite easily reduce alcohol consumption to safer levels.”
On the other side of the argument, Professor Jonathan Chick from Queen Margaret University Hospital Edinburgh, has said:
“Although for many people dependent on alcohol, abstinence is the preferred and optimal goal, nalmefene represents an alternative step - helping people to cut down drinking to less harmful levels when they are not ready and have no medical need to give up alcohol altogether. This may help us to engage many alcohol dependent patients that we know are not currently receiving help.”
If you are concerned about your drinking habits or would like more information about the symptoms of addiction, please feel free to visit our Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page. You can also learn more about alcohol addiction at our Knowledge Centre.