A simple Test costing £50 could help prevent alcohol-related deaths.

illustrationA simple ‘traffic light’ test that detects hidden liver fibrosis and cirrhosis in high-risk populations could reduce harmful drinking rates and potentially prevent hundreds of alcohol related deaths a year.

The test, devised by Dr Nick Sheron and colleagues at the University of Southampton and Southampton General Hospital, costs around £50 and could be used by GPs in the community.

The Southampton Traffic Light Test (STL) appeared to help reduce drinking rates in people with the highest risk of liver disease according to the results of a study published in the October 2013 issue of the British Journal of General Practice.

The STL test combines several different tests and clinical markers which are given a score that indicates the patient’s likelihood of developing liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis.

The result comes in three colours: red means that the patient probably has liver scarring (fibrosis) and may even have cirrhosis, green means that there is no cirrhosis and the patient is highly unlikely to die from liver disease over the next five years.  Amber means there is at least a 50:50 chance of scarring and patients are advised to reduce or avoid drinking to avert further disease progression.

The STL test was used on 393 heavy drinkers at their GP practice, 65% of the harmful drinkers with a red or amber result reduced to a non harmful amount, nearly twice that as those with a green STL result.

Simon Stephens Director of Casework at Addictions UK said, “This simple test can save lives; often by the time people understand they have liver damage it is too late. This clear message can encourage people to change their behaviour.”

Read an article on this in MedicalXpress

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Drugs advisory body recommends stricter regulation in the UK

illustrationWriting in a letter to Jeremy Browne, Minister of State for Crime Prevention on 3rd October 2013, Professor Les Iverson chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (AMCD) discussed the decision for Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) to move from schedule IV to schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.

GHB occurs naturally in the brain and it may be an inhibitory neuromodulator, involved among other things in the control of glucose metabolism, oxygen consumption and temperature regulation.  A GHB based medicine ‘Xyrem’ is used in the treatment of narcolepsy and is prescribed at low levels in the UK.  Figures from the NHS show 970 prescriptions were issued for this drug in 2012.

The AMCD agreed with the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the abuse liability of GHB is much greater than the little-to-moderate therapeutic use.

The AMCD noted that there were 13 drug related deaths involving GHB/GBL in 2012.  It is not possible to separately identify GBL and GHB post mortem as GBL is rapidly converted into GHB in the body.

The ACMD recommended GHB be scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs act as a schedule II substance meaning stricter regulation on the safe keeping and prescribing of this drug.

Simon Stephens Director of Casework at Addictions UK said: “GHB is a powerful tranquiliser taken recreationally as a ‘club drug’.  A very small amount causes a profound effect which can lead to inexperienced users unintentionally overdosing.”

You can read the full text of Professor Iverson’s letter.

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