New draft guidelines from NHS cost regulators are proposing to give up to 600,000 patients in England and Wales with alcohol dependency access to Lundbeck's Selincro (nalmefene).

Approved for use in the UK back in May 2013 to reduce alcohol cravings, the once-daily pill is a unique dual-acting opioid system modulator that acts on the brain’s motivational system, which is dysregulated in patients with alcohol dependence.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says Selincro should be available as an option for patients who are heavy drinkers but not for those who require immediate detoxification, and stipulates that it should be prescribed alongside continuous psychosocial support to help reduce alcohol consumption in line with its marketing authority. 

Different strategy

Selincro is meant to be taken on days when an alcoholic feels at greater risk of having a drink, under a different approach that aims to reduce - rather than stop altogether - alcohol consumption, which some experts believe is a more realistic goal. 

This strategy is not intended to replace the traditional goal of abstinence but to offer another option for patients to cut down and regain control of their drinking, as they ultimately aim for abstinence.

Prescriptions rocket

A recent report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that the number of drugs prescribed for treating alcohol dependence in England has shot up 79% in just a decade, with their cost to the NHS topping £3 billion.

Final guidance for the drug's use on the NHS is expected in November.