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Asians fighting alcoholism may benefit from an FDA-approved drug

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Genetics may be used to indicate which ethnic groups will benefit from naltrexone, one of the three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcoholism. UCLA psychologist Lara Ray, who led the study, explains how variations in a gene that codes for opioid receptors in the brain can be used to predict how a patient responds to the drug.

Ray:               The drug does not work for everyone, but it does seem to work better for patients who have this spelling variation in their DNA. The allele frequency, the frequency of the spelling variation actually differs by ethnic group. Individuals of East Asian descent in particular, 50 percent of them have this polymorphism. That means they're much more likely, than any other ethnic group, to benefit from this finding.

Narrator:       In comparison, only 20 percent of Caucasians and less than 5 percent of African Americans responded to the drug. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.