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Medical News & Perspectives
March 9, 2011

Study Suggests Gene May Predict Success of Therapies for Alcohol Dependence

JAMA. 2011;305(10):984-985. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.270

Clinicians have come to recognize the wide variation among patients with alcohol dependence, and scientists are continuing to accumulate evidence suggesting that genetic differences may help explain these variations. Now studies are suggesting that targeting alcohol dependence therapies to an individual's genetic makeup may improve outcomes.

A growing body of data links variation in the μ-opioid receptors with an individual's response to alcohol. The findings also show a connection between such variation and a patient's response to treatment with naltrexone, a drug that targets these receptors. Additionally, basic studies have demonstrated that variations in the genes that encode serotonin transporters affect the response to alcohol. Now a randomized controlled trial has demonstrated that the latter variants can predict the response of alcohol-dependent patients to treatment with ondansetron, a drug used to treat chemotherapy-associated nausea that targets the serotonin receptors.