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New treatments for alcoholism – are they viable business models?

Within the EU, more than 12m people are alcohol dependent, which costs €66bn a year in healthcare and crime costs plus a further €59bn in absenteeism, unemployment and early deaths. Yet some treatments claim to enable 75% of patients to achieve their goals.

Scratch the surface, and there is a fair amount of innovation in treating alcoholism. Finnish clinic chain Contral has been treating patients with cognitive behavior therapy and opiate antagonists for 15 years. The drug (now Nalmefene from Lundbeck) provides a level of support which means that individuals can actually continue to drink in moderation, says Contral boss Jukka Keski-Pukkila. The clinic chain has recently opened in Spain, but remains a small business, although Keski-Pukkila is interested in talking to potential investors and partners. He claims that 75% of patients achieve their goals – the approach is based on American scientist David Sinclair.

It is interesting to note how slow the adoption has been of the Contral approach, although that may be about to change as Lundbeck markets the drug more widely. Whether the Contral approach is in anyway patentable is unclear.

Note that Contral has recently set up a similar programme for gambling addicts.

Up until now, Contral has recruited patients through Alko, the Finnish state monopoly. But it is clear that the internet has recently opened up new channels to market.

It is worth noting that German hospital chain Asklepios has recently opened a new website offering online treatment for 6-12 weeks after an initial meeting with a doctor.

There are some interesting alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous out there.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.