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CNS Drugs. 2005;19(5):445-64.

Acamprosate: a review of its use in the maintenance of abstinence in patients with alcohol dependence.

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Adis International Limited, Private Bag 65901, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.


Acamprosate (Campral delayed-release tablet), a synthetic compound with a similar structure to that of the neurotransmitter GABA and the neuromodulator taurine, facilitates the maintenance of abstinence in detoxified alcohol-dependent patients. Although the precise mechanism(s) of action of the drug remains to be fully elucidated, it appears that it most likely involves beneficial modulation of the glutamatergic neurotransmitter system, including antagonism of the mGLu5 metabotropic glutamate receptor, to counteract the imbalance between the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems associated with chronic alcohol exposure and alcohol withdrawal. In several double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of up to 12 months' duration, acamprosate effectively maintained complete abstinence in detoxified alcohol-dependent patients, irrespective of disease severity or the type of psychosocial support. The drug showed better efficacy than placebo and was very well tolerated. Limited data from a relatively well designed trial indicate that the drug has similar efficacy to that of naltrexone and that combination therapy with these two agents provides better efficacy than acamprosate monotherapy, although multicentre direct head-to-head investigations are required to fully establish the potential of this combination. The drug may be particularly useful in those with hepatic impairment and/or liver disease. Thus, in combination with psychosocial and behavioural management programmes, acamprosate is a promising option for the maintenance of abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients after alcohol withdrawal.

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