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NIH Study: Genes Help Predict Treatment Success for Alcoholism Drug

Ondansetron studied for alcohol dependence (August 2)

An experimental treatment for alcohol dependence works better in individuals who possess specific combinations of genes that regulate the function and binding of serotonin, a brain chemical affected by the treatment, according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The findings were published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Ondansetron is a medication currently used to treat nausea and vomiting, often following chemotherapy. It works by blocking serotonin-3 receptors, and has shown potential as a treatment for defined subpopulations with alcohol dependence.

In previous studies, researchers at the University of Virginia have shown that variations in genes that encode the serotonin transporter, a protein that regulates the concentration of serotonin between nerve cells, can significantly influence drinking intensity. They also showed that the effectiveness of ondansetron therapy among people with alcohol dependence is influenced by variations of the serotonin transporter gene.

In the new study, the researchers extended their prior work by analyzing variants of serotonin receptor genes — collectively designated as HTR3 — among nearly 300 alcohol-dependent individuals who were participating in a clinical trial of ondansetron. They found that three HTR3 variants were significantly associated with the effectiveness of ondansetron treatment for alcohol dependence.

Lead investigator Bankole Johnson, DSc, MD, commented: “Taken together, these studies implicate a collective effect of serotonin receptor and transporter gene combinations, defined by a five-marker genotype panel, on the response to treatment with ondansetron for a genetically defined subpopulation of individuals with alcohol dependence.”

Source: NIH; August 2, 2013.

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