France allows use of muscle relaxant to treat alcoholics

French health authorities said Tuesday they have approved the use of a muscle relaxant to help treat people addicted to alcohol.

France allows use of muscle relaxant to treat alcoholics
The ANSM national drug agency said it had cleared Baclofen, first developed in the 1970s, for alcoholism after a trial period that began in 2014, following years of off-label use in several countries.
But officials warned that the drug could have harmful side-effects, and limited its dosage to 80 milligrammes per day, down from 300 milligrammes previously.
Critics of the drug says its use to treat alcoholism has not been sufficiently proven, with some questioning the wisdom of trying to stop dependence on a product by replacing it with a pill.
But a French drug oversight agency said last year that while Baclofen had not been definitively shown to be efficient in treating alcoholism, it had shown “clinical benefits in some patients”.
In its trial with 132 heavy drinkers, it found that 80 percent either became abstinent or turned into moderate drinkers.
By comparison, two other drugs that are commonly used to treat alcoholics, Naltrexon and Acamprosate, yielded a success rate of 20 to 25 percent.
ANSM director Dominique Martin said Tuesday that the authorisation of Baclofen, sold under brand names including Kemstro, Lioresal and Gablofen, was 
necessary to meet “a public health need”.
Refusing the drug “did not seem reasonable to us given the needs and the seriousness of alcoholism, and the fact that tens of thousands of people are taking the medicine for this treatment,” he said.
Interest in the treatment was sparked by a book published in 2008 by Olivier Ameisen, a French cardiologist who practiced in the United States.
In “Le Dernier Verre” (The Last Drink), Ameisen describes successfully treating his alcoholism with high doses of Baclofen after failing with Alcoholics Anonymous and other standard treatments.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.