Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital found that receiving medications that reduce alcohol consumption may lower the risk of ALD among individuals with alcohol use disorder, and also slow disease progression in patients already diagnosed with ALD.
The research is published in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by Augustin Vannier et al.
Excessive alcohol consumption can harm the liver, causing a range of conditions from relatively minor liver damage to serious problems such as cirrhosis and liver cancer—all of which fall under the umbrella of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD).
Though medications that help patients reduce their alcohol intake exist, they are widely under-prescribed.
In the study, the team analyzed data from 9,635 patients with alcohol use disorder.
A total of 1,135 (11.8%) had ALD and 3,906 (40.5%) were treated with medications for alcohol use disorder, including disulfiram, acamprosate, naltrexone, gabapentin, topiramate, and baclofen.
Among participants without liver disease, those who received medications for alcohol use disorder had a 63% lower risk of later developing the liver disease than untreated patients.
Such treatment was also linked with a 59% lower risk of disease progression in patients who had already been diagnosed with cirrhosis.
These findings indicate that medical treatment for excessive alcohol use may have a meaningful role to play in preventing liver disease.
The team says more clinical trials are needed to determine the true benefits of addiction medications for alcohol abuse disorder for the prevention and treatment of liver disease.
They hope that these results will provide further support for the use of medical therapy for alcohol, which tends to be underutilized.
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