The effectiveness acamprosate (calcium bisacetylhomotaurinate) as a treatment to maintain abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients was assessed for 1 year.
After short-term detoxification, 272 patients participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Patients received routine counseling and either the study medication or placebo for 48 weeks; they were followed up for another 48 weeks without medication. Statistical analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle.
Patients who were receiving acamprosate showed a significantly higher continuous abstinence rate within the first 60 days of treatment compared with patients who were assigned to placebo treatment (67% vs 50%) until completion of the treatment period (43% vs 21%, log rank P=.005), and they had a significantly longer mean abstinence duration of 224 vs 163 days, or 62% vs 45% days abstinent (P<.001); however, there was no difference in psychiatric symptoms. Of the patients who were receiving acamprosate, 41% had dropped out, whereas 60% of the placebo-treated patients dropped out of the study. Few side effects (mainly diarrhea and headache) were recorded. At the end of a further 48 weeks without receiving study medication, 39% and 17% of the acamprosate- and placebo-treated patients, respectively, had remained abstinent (P=.003).
Acamprosate proved to be a safe and effective aid in treating alcohol-dependent patients and in maintaining the abstinence of patients during 2 years.