High-Dose Baclofen for the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence (BACLAD study): A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Christian A. Müller, Olga Geisel, Patricia Pelz, Verena Higl, Josephine Krüger, Anna Stickel, Anne Beck, Klaus-Dieter Wernecke, Rainer Hellweg, Andreas Heinz
Received: January 24, 2015; Received in revised form: March 13, 2015; Accepted: April 1, 2015; Published Online: April 13, 2015

Previous randomized, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the efficacy of the selective γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-B receptor agonist baclofen in the treatment of alcohol dependence have reported divergent results, possibly related to the low to medium dosages of baclofen used in these studies (30–80 mg/d). Based on preclinical observations of a dose-dependent effect and positive case reports in alcohol-dependent patients, the present RCT aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of individually titrated high-dose baclofen for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Out of 93 alcohol-dependent patients consecutively screened, 56 were randomly assigned to a double-blind treatment with individually titrated baclofen or placebo using dosages of 30–270 mg/d. The multiple primary outcome measures were 1) total abstinence and 2) cumulative abstinence duration during a 12-week high-dose phase. More patients of the baclofen group maintained total abstinence during the high-dose phase than those receiving placebo (15/22, 68.2% vs. 5/21, 23.8%, p=0.014). Cumulative abstinence duration was significantly higher in patients given baclofen compared to patients of the placebo group (mean 67.8 (SD 30) vs. 51.8 (SD 29.6) days, p=0.047). No drug-related serious adverse events were observed during the trial. Individually titrated high-dose baclofen effectively supported alcohol-dependent patients in maintaining alcohol abstinence and showed a high tolerability, even in the event of relapse. These results provide further evidence for the potential of baclofen, thereby possibly extending the current pharmacological treatment options in alcohol dependence.