NICE has approved the use of nalmefene to help people who are dependent on alcohol to cut down on the amount they drink.
In England in 2012/13, there were around 1.2 million hospital admissions due to an alcohol-related condition or injury. Estimates suggest alcohol-related harm costs the NHS in England £3.5bn a year.
Nalmefene, also called Selincro, is taken as a tablet once a day on an as-needed basis and reduces the urge to drink. The drug is licensed for use alongside psychosocial support to help people reduce their alcohol consumption and give them the encouragement they need to continue with their treatment.
It is recommended for men who drink more than 7.5 units per day and for women who drink 5 units a day. According to the manufacturer's submission, 35,000 people are expected to be given nalmefene whilst receiving a psychosocial intervention.
Compared with placebo plus psychosocial support, nalmefene plus psychosocial support can reduce heavy drinking days by 3.2 days/month and reduce total alcohol consumption by 1.8 units/day.
Nalmefene costs £42.42 for a 14-tablet pack. Assuming it is used for approximately 60 per cent of the time, as used in studies, the cost of a 28-day supply is estimated to be £48.48.
Professor Carole Longson, NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director, said: "Many people have a difficult relationship with alcohol even though they have a very stable lifestyle, maintain jobs and a social life and would not automatically assume they have a problem. But regularly drinking over the recommended daily amount of alcohol can seriously damage your health.
"Those who could be prescribed nalmefene have already taken the first big steps by visiting their doctor, engaging with support services and taking part in therapy programmes. We are pleased to be able to recommend the use of namelfene to support people further in their efforts to fight alcohol dependence.
"When used alongside psychosocial support nalmefene is clinically and cost effective for the NHS compared with psychosocial support alone."