Despite the availability of currently approved medications and various psychosocial therapies, alcohol abuse and dependence are increasingly prevalent in the United States, and carry a significant socioeconomic burden. Recently, the novel anti-epileptic topiramate has shown great promise as a new treatment for this disorder. The objective of this review is to discuss the limitations of the currently available options for treating alcohol dependence, to review the results of clinical trials assessing the efficacy of topiramate in treating alcohol dependence, and to describe the pharmacological characteristics and mechanisms of action of topiramate as related to this indication. We systematically reviewed Medline, EMBASE, Cochran Reviews and PsycINFO search terms included combinations of the terms “pharmacotherapy” “topiramate”, “alcoholism” and “alcohol dependence.” Searches were last updated 24 October 2008. Currently approved treatments include disulfiram, naltrexone tablets and injection, and acamprosate. Of these, naltrexone has shown the most benefit, however the effect size is small and may reach its most promising potential when combined with medical management. Alternatively, through multiple mechanisms of action, topiramate in clinical trials has demonstrated safety and efficacy in decreasing both craving and withdrawal symptoms and increasing quality of life measures among alcoholdependent individuals. The findings of this review suggest that topiramate is a promising new option for the treatment of alcohol dependence, and may offer substantial benefits over currently approved medications. While the manufacturer will not pursue approval of an indication for the treatment of alcohol dependence, the drug will soon be available generically, making it more affordable for a greater proportion of the public.
Alcohol dependence, pharmacotherapy, topiramate, disulfiram, naltrexone, acamprosate
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, P.O. Box G-S121-5, Providence, RI 02908, USA.