CENTER CITY, MINN. (January 15, 2015) —Henry R. Kranzler, M.D., Director, Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine has earned the latest Dan Anderson Research Award for his study examining the effectiveness of topiramate treatment in reducing drinking among a sample of heavy drinkers. Sponsored by the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the award honors a single published article by a researcher who has advanced the scientific knowledge of addiction treatment and recovery. Recognizing outstanding research and conducting research of its own are the primary objectives of the Butler Center for Research, the research arm of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
Dr. Kranzler earned the award for his study "Topiramate treatment for heavy drinkers: Moderation by a GRIK1 Polymorphism," published in 2014 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study focused on 138 individuals (62% men) who explicitly stated a desire to reduce their drinking. All participants reported drinking on a weekly basis at hazardous levels: an average of 24 or more drinks per week for men and an average of 18 or more drinks for women. All participants received medical management and brief counseling about their alcohol use. They were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or topiramate, a medication that has been shown to reduce drinking among individuals who wish to achieve abstinence. Importantly, the study also examined whether participants with a specific nucleotide sequence on the GRIK1 gene would benefit more from topiramate than those with a different sequence. In sum, the primary aim of the study was to seek additional support for topiramate in reducing hazardous drinking and examine the potential relationship between the therapeutic response to the medication and a marker in the GRIK1 gene.
"As the frequency of heavy drinking increases, so does the incidence of a variety of alcohol-related problems, including alcohol use disorder," said Kranzler. "Yet despite these risks, only a small fraction of heavy drinkers in the population receive any kind of alcohol treatment, with medications particularly underutilized." Dr. Joel Gelernter, Professor of Genetics and Neurobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, nominated Dr. Kranzler for the award, stating "this is likely to be one of Dr. Kranzler's most influential papers, bringing together a treatment trial of an important medication in the treatment of hazardous drinking with a genetic predictor that may be expected to bring alcohol dependence treatment into the new and expanding realm of personalized medicine."
The study produced several interesting and noteworthy results. Participants receiving topiramate showed a significantly greater reduction in the number of heavy drinking days and more abstinent days during the study period than participants who received the placebo. Individuals taking topiramate also showed significantly lower levels of liver enzymes and lower scores on a self-report measure of alcohol-related problems. In addition, the effect of topiramate in reducing the number of heavy drinking days was significantly greater among a subsample of participants with a particular form of the GRIK1 gene, suggesting that the therapeutic effects of the medication are especially pronounced for this group of individuals. These findings suggest that topiramate holds a great deal of promise in reducing hazardous drinking, and genetic information could potentially be utilized on an a priority basis to identify individuals most likely to benefit from topiramate treatment.
"Our Scientific Panel of Advisors was extremely impressed with the scientific rigor of this study, and the fact that the results have the potential to improve the lives of an extremely large number of people," stated Dr. Audrey Klein, Executive Director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. "Heavy drinking is extremely common in the United States, and it is well-established that prolonged, heavy use of alcohol is associated with a myriad of adverse consequences, including a variety of health problems. In addition, the use of genetic information to better tailor treatment to an individual's unique profile is becoming increasingly popular in the addiction treatment literature and could be of enormous therapeutic benefit."
Dr. Kranzler will accept the award and a $2,000 honorarium from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation later this year. The award is named for the late Dan Anderson, Ph.D., the former president of Hazelden and one of the major architects of the Minnesota Model, the interdisciplinary approach to addiction treatment that has been implemented worldwide.
Kranzler's research was selected as the best from among several outstanding candidates by the Scientific Panel of the Butler Center for Research. The panel includes Klein; Valerie Slaymaker, Ph.D., Vice President of Education, Quality and Research, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; Carlton Erickson, Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin; Lee Ann Kaskutas, Ph.D., Alcohol Research Group, Emeryville, Calif.; Stephanie O'Malley, Ph.D., Yale University; John Finney, Ph.D., Center for Healthcare Evaluation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System; John F. Kelly, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Psychiatry, and Constance Weisner, Ph.D., University of California-San Francisco; Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine.
About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 16 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care to help youth and adults reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children's program, and is the nation's leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery.