clare-sharp-photoClare Sharp, PhD Candidate at University of Stirling

Working Title: Nalmefene prescribing for alcohol dependence: patterns and influences

Supervisors: Dr. Niamh Fitzgerald and Prof. Linda Bauld

Abstract

Nalmefene is a drug which was licensed in the UK in 2013 to treat alcohol dependence. It does this by working on the brain to reduce the urge to drink. It has been recommended for use in adults drinking continuously at high risk level (>7.5 units per day in men; >5 units per day in women) who have been diagnosed with alcohol dependence. The main treatment goal for this drug is to reduce drinking rather than abstain from alcohol completely. However, there has been much debate about its effectiveness, and whether it adds value over and above other similar established drug treatments. Evidence from clinical trials has been mixed, with some showing that nalmefene is effective in reducing drinking if used alongside psychosocial support, whilst critics have noted that it has not been tested against other similar drug treatments. Further, some aspects of the clinical trials which have informed the licensing and approval of nalmefene have been questioned by researchers and clinicians, who have also raised concerns about the regulatory decisions around the drug.

Given the current debates around nalmefene, and the wider debates around drug treatment for alcohol dependence, it is important to understand how this drug is being used in UK primary care and to understand the factors which may influence prescribing of the drug. This PhD study will explore the prescribing data for nalmefene with a view to understanding trends over time, geographical differences, and circumstances in which it is used. It will also use qualitative methods to obtain the views of prescribers on the role of nalmefene in treating alcohol dependence, and key influences on their prescribing, including marketing and regulatory factors.

For further information, please contact Clare.Sharp1@stir.ac.uk