Anti-hangover pill debate

RUI-21 hits UK shelves as binge-drinking concerns continue

June 15, 2004 - An American anti-hangover pill being marketed in the United Kingdom as a dietary supplement has sparked new concerns about binge drinking. RU-21 was launched last week, less than a month after Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was determined binge drinking should not become a "new British disease."


A box of 20 costs 4.99 with one pill taken with every drink and the company behind the product claims it regulates alcohol metabolism and will even protect organs against alcohol damage. The pill, said to have been developed by the Soviet KGB so its spies could out-drink enemy agents, works by inhibiting the body's production of the poison acetaldehyde.

Critics say that by masking the after-effects, RU-21 could prevent heavy drinkers from recognizing their problem with alcohol abuse.

"We have got a problem, and taking a tablet doesn't alter the fact that people could be doing themselves harm, whether they feel it or not," said David Poley of the Portman Group, which promotes safe drinking on behalf of the drinks industry.

RU-21's promotional material doesn't claim the pill will prevent hangovers, but its reputation proceeds it.

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