Background: Intervention to achieve alcohol abstinence represents the most eff ective treatment for alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis; however, anticraving drugs might worsen liver disease. We aimed to investigate the eff ectiveness and safety of baclofen in achieving and maintaining alcohol abstinence in patients with liver cirrhosis.
Methods: Between October, 2003, and November, 2006, 148 alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis were referred to the Institute of Internal Medicine, Rome, Italy. 84 were randomly allocated either oral baclofen or placebo for 12 weeks. Primary outcome was proportion of patients achieving and maintaining alcohol abstinence. Measures of this outcome were total alcohol abstinence and cumulative abstinence duration, which were assessed at outpatient visits. Relapse was defi ned as alcohol intake of more than four drinks per day or overall consumption of 14 or more drinks per week over a period of at least 4 weeks. Analysis was by intention to treat. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00525252.
Findings: Of 42 patients allocated baclofen, 30 (71%) achieved and maintained abstinence compared with 12 (29%) of 42 assigned placebo (odds ratio 6·3 [95% CI 2·4–16·1]; p=0·0001). The number of dropouts (termination of treatment) did not diff er between the baclofen (6/42 [14%]) and placebo (13/42 [31%]) groups (p=0·12). Cumulative abstinence duration was about twofold higher in patients allocated baclofen than in those assigned placebo (mean 62·8 [SE 5·4] vs 30·8 [5·5] days; p=0·001). No hepatic side-eff ects were recorded.
Interpretation: Baclofen is eff ective at promoting alcohol abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis. The drug is well tolerated and could have an important role in treatment of these individuals.