Friday, December 12, 2003

Drug curbs heavy drinking - for men only

Health watch

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A new treatment for alcoholism has taken another step closer to market. At least for men.

And if the drug is approved, it will be made in Wilmington, Ohio.

Vivitrex, an injected, long-acting version of an existing drug called naltrexone, has been tested in 624 people with alcohol dependence, according to the manufacturer, Alkermes Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

About 18 million people nationwide suffer from alcohol abuse, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. Vivitrex is designed to reduce the "high" people get from alcohol.

In the trial, the median number of "heavy drinking days" fell from 19 days a month to three days a month for men. However, for reasons that aren't fully understood, the drug provided no clear benefit for women.

Alkermes has manufacturing sites in Massachusetts and an 80-employee plant in Wilmington, Ohio.

"Once approved by the FDA, Vivitrex will be commercially produced there," said spokeswoman Rebecca Peterson.

The company plans to file a "New Drug Application" with the FDA in 2005. Typically, it takes about a year to review such applications.

REACHING TOUGH CASES: Groups interested in AIDS prevention aren't getting the message to some of the people who need it most, according to a study going on in Over-the-Rhine.

Starting in October, the Rapid Assessment Response and Evaluation (RARE) project sent eight field researchers to canvass a 22-block area of one of Cincinnati's poorest neighborhoods. Through surveys and focus groups, they interviewed more than 160 people, ranging from prostitutes to social service agency workers. Among the findings:

• Most had no idea where to seek HIV testing or where to get support services even though some were standing within blocks of active agencies when interviewed, said Dr. Evelyn Obeng-Darko, team coordinator.

• Trading sex for drugs remains a key way of spreading HIV in Cincinnati. But unlike some larger cities, sharing needles isn't much of a problem. More than 40 percent of those surveyed reported using illegal drugs, but 7 percent mentioned using injectible drugs.

• For many, the risk of AIDS is just one item on a list of problems. Obeng-Darko said many of those interviewed expressed a "hopelessness" about their lives that made them seem unconcerned about the risk of being infected by HIV.

CONTACT LENS WEARERS: President Bush signed a bill Saturday that requires eye doctors to provide contact lens prescription information to patients free of charge, which allows them to shop around for lower-cost lenses.

The federal law takes effect in two months.

Several states already had similar laws, but Ohio and Kentucky didn't.


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