Topiramate has been shown to reduce drinking and heavy drinking in individuals with alcohol dependence whose goal was to stop drinking. The authors evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of topiramate in heavy drinkers whose treatment goal was to reduce drinking to safe levels.
A total of 138 individuals (62.3% men) were randomly assigned to receive 12 weeks of treatment with topiramate (N=67), at a maximal daily dose of 200 mg, or matching placebo (N=71). Both groups received brief counseling to reduce drinking and increase abstinent days. It was hypothesized that topiramate-treated patients would be better able to achieve these goals, and it was predicted that based on prior research, the effects would be moderated by a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs2832407) in GRIK1, encoding the kainate GluK1 receptor subunit.
The rate of treatment completion was 84.9% and equal by treatment group. Topiramate treatment significantly reduced heavy drinking days and increased abstinent days relative to placebo. Patients receiving topiramate also had lower concentrations of the liver enzyme γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and lower scores on a measure of alcohol-related problems than the placebo group. In a European American subsample (N=122), topiramate’s effect on heavy drinking days was significantly greater than that for placebo only in rs2832407 C-allele homozygotes.
These findings support the use of topiramate at a daily dose of 200 mg to reduce heavy drinking in problem drinkers. The moderator effect of rs2832407, if validated, would facilitate the identification of heavy drinkers who are likely to respond well to topiramate treatment and provide an important personalized treatment option. The pharmacogenetic findings also implicate the kainate receptor in the mechanism of topiramate’s effects on heavy drinking.