The development of acamprosate as a treatment against alcohol relapse

Peter R. Kufahl, Lucas R. Watterson, Michael Olive

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction: Globally, alcohol abuse and dependence are significant contributors to chronic disease and injury and are responsible for nearly 4% of all deaths annually. Acamprosate (Campral), one of only three pharmacological treatments approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence, has shown mixed efficacy in clinical trials in maintaining abstinence of detoxified alcoholics since studies began in the 1980s. Yielding inconsistent results, these studies have prompted skepticism.Areas covered: Herein, the authors review the preclinical studies which have assessed the efficacy of acamprosate in various animal models of alcohol dependence and discuss the disparate findings from the major clinical trials. Moreover, the authors discuss the major limitations of these preclinical and clinical studies and offer explanations for the often-contradictory findings. The article also looks at the importance of the calcium moiety that accompanies the salt form of acamprosate and its relevance to its activity.Expert opinion: The recent discovery that large doses of calcium largely duplicate the effects of acamprosate in animal models has introduced a serious challenge to the widely held functional association between this drug and the glutamate neurotransmission system. Future research on acamprosate or newer pharmacotherapeutics should consider assessing plasma and/or brain levels of calcium as a correlate or mediating factor in anti-relapse efficacy. Further, preclinical research on acamprosate has thus far lacked animal models of chemical dependence on alcohol, and the testing of rodents with histories of alcohol intoxication and withdrawal is suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1355-1369
Number of pages15
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Discovery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Acamprosate
  • Alcoholism
  • Calcium
  • Craving
  • Glutamate
  • Relapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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