Alcohol use disorders affect 18 million people, cause 100,000 deaths annually, and cost society in excess of $235 billion annually in the United States, but current therapeutic approaches have had limited and short-lasting success in treating them.
Daryl Davies, PhD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy, USC School of Pharmacy, and his collaborators at the University of Southern California (USC) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) discovered that ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections in millions of people and animals every year, may also be an effective treatment to reduce alcohol intake.
With pilot funding from the SC CTSI, his group demonstrated in mice that ivermectin significantly reduced overall alcohol intake and preference for alcohol compared to water. Because ivermectin is already approved for use in humans, they have been able to move directly to a clinical trial with collaborators at the University of California, Los Angeles to see if ivermectin can reduce alcohol intake in alcohol-dependent individuals. Results from an initial trial confirmed the safety of the drug. The research team is now planning a larger trial to test the efficacy of the compound.
“If what we saw in mice in the laboratory also happens in people, we may have a safe and effective way to help people with alcohol use disorders as it will reduce their urge to drink,” said Davies. The Davies group is also examining other compounds related to ivermectin to see if they might be even more effective at reducing alcohol intake.