Background: Topiramate, a sulphamate fructopyranose derivative, might antagonise alcohol's rewarding effects associated with abuse liability by inhibiting mesocorticolimbic dopamine release via the contemporaneous facilitation of gamma-amino-butyric acid activity and inhibition of glutamate function. We aimed to see whether topiramate was more effective than placebo as a treatment for alcohol dependence.
Methods: We did a double-blind randomised controlled 12-week clinical trial comparing oral topiramate and placebo for treatment of 150 individuals with alcohol dependence. Of these 150 individuals, 75 were assigned to receive topiramate (escalating dose of 25-300 mg per day) and 75 had placebo as an adjunct to weekly standardised medication compliance management. Primary efficacy variables were: self-reported drinking (drinks per day, drinks per drinking day, percentage of heavy drinking days, percentage of days abstinent) and plasma gamma-glutamyl transferase, an objective index of alcohol consumption. The secondary efficacy variable was self-reported craving.
Findings: At study end, participants on topiramate, compared with those on placebo, had 2.88 (95% CI -4.50 to -1.27) fewer drinks per day (p=0.0006), 3.10 (-4.88 to -1.31) fewer drinks per drinking day (p=0.0009), 27.6% fewer heavy drinking days (p=0.0003), 26.2% more days abstinent (p=0.0003), and a log plasma gamma-glutamyl transferase ratio of 0.07 (-0.11 to -0.02) less (p=0.0046). Topiramate-induced differences in craving were also significantly greater than those of placebo, of similar magnitude to the self-reported drinking changes, and highly correlated with them.
Interpretation: Topiramate (up to 300 mg per day) is more efficacious than placebo as an adjunct to standardised medication compliance management in treatment of alcohol dependence.