Yesterday, the news wires went absolutely crazy following the release of new data from Alcohol Concern. According to the charity, some 9.6 million Britons are drinking in excess of Government recommendations. However, upon closer scrutiny, it turns out that Alcohol Concern work with a pharmaceutical company to produce the statistics; the same company responsible for the anti-drink medication known as nalmefene. We have to ask, is there a conflict of interest here?
Alcohol Concern has published an interactive alcohol map on their website enabling users to view data collected from various regions of the UK. The text accompanying the map claims that the NHS spends approximately £3.5 billion treating excessive drinkers every single year.
According to The Mirror, the charity also claims that approximately 9.9 million hospital admissions in England last year were related to alcohol use. It says that the NHS is now facing “an intolerable strain from alcohol-related illnesses.”
As shocking as the statistics might be, it is important that we consider their source – even if the numbers are absolutely legitimate. Alcohol Concern claims it produced the interactive map as simply a means of raising awareness about the seriousness of the alcohol problem in Britain. However, the fact that it partnered with Lundbeck Ltd to produce the data and subsequent map raises serious questions.
Lundbeck and Nalmefene
Not long ago, we published a post talking about the new alcohol ‘wonder drug’ known as nalmefene. This drug is supposed to help those with moderate drinking problems avoid alcohol cravings when taken coincidentally with the first drink of the day. NICE has already recommended that doctors consider prescribing the medication at a price of £3 per tablet to anyone who may have a moderate drinking problem. Although the prescription programme has not yet been officially adopted, it is expected that the NHS will give final approval sometime in November.
The interesting part of the plan is that doctors will not need to be treating alcohol-related problems in order to prescribe the drug. They can ask about drinking habits while treating a muscle pull, for example, and then write a prescription if the answers seem to indicate a moderate drinking problem.
Critics of the plan, including Professor Geoffrey Arden of Moorefields Hospital, say the research data shows nalmefene is only marginally better than a placebo. They say the entire programme is nothing but a waste of taxpayer money that will drive Lundbeck profits without helping the very real problem of alcohol abuse. Professor Arden cannot help but suspect the motives of the pharmaceutical company in helping to produce the alarming alcohol abuse data.
Drugs Not Always the Answer
Let us assume that the data from Alcohol Concern is accurate. Does it suggest that prescribing a drug that can cost as much as £50 per month is the answer? For that matter, why are we so quick to assume prescription drugs is always the answer to addiction problems? Alcohol is a drug. Nalmefene is also a drug. Treating one drug problem with another drug seems counterproductive to most reasonable people.
We are inclined to believe that the alcohol problem in Britain is serious enough to warrant finding new ways to address it. We do not necessarily believe that another prescription drug is appropriate. Moreover, we are highly suspicious when the manufacturer of a new drug is working behind the scenes to convince taxpayers how much we need their product.
Addiction Helper believes that the best way to deal with your alcohol problem is through proper support and treatment. We can help you find that support and treatment when you call our 24-hour addiction recovery helpline.
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Sources: Alcohol Concern
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