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February 1, 2011

UVa Addiction Research Featured in HBO Addiction Film

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HBO Films is premiering its latest documentary, Addiction, which features UVa Health System Prof. Bankole Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., and patients. Prof. Johnson, chairman of the UVa Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science, is featured for his work with topiramate, a promising compound that he and team members have used as a way to block the dopamine pathway in the brain, a pleasure pathway that mediates the urge to drink alcohol. This medical treatment, in combination with behavioral counseling, is proving effective for many patients in the UVa clinical trials.

The UVa Health System provides a web site for viewers who need more information about topiramate, its use, and addiction in general. The web site is:

For more information about topiramate or about enrolling in a clinical trial, viewers also can call 434-243-0549 or 888-882-2345.

Members of the media can order a DVD of the documentary to review by calling Jessica Manzi of HBO at 212-512-1322.

The film is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, and viewers with HBO on Demand can see the film as early as 12:01 a.m. on March 15. The segment on the UVa clinical trials with topiramate is one of nine films by award-winning filmmakers that make up the documentary. Filmmaker Alan Raymond, who made the Emmy-winning film “Children in War,” filmed the segment at the UVa Center for Addiction Research and Education at the North Fork location in Charlottesville.

Prof. Johnson and staff met with members of the Congressional Caucus on Addiction Treatment and Recovery on March 1 at a screening of the HBO documentary. Co-chairs of the caucus, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), invited Johnson and staff to see the screening and attend a panel discussion that included speakers Nora D. Volkow, M.D, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Mark Willenbring, M.D., director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Topiramate is already approved as a prescription drug for use by patients with seizures and migraine headaches. For addiction treatment, the drug is primarily available through clinical trials. Topiramate can be prescribed for so-called “off-label” use at the discretion of a primary care provider; however, that is a choice for each individual physician to make.

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