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Classification: B

Drug products: Antabus, Antabus®, Antabuse, Disulfiram, Disulfiram WZF

ATC code: N07BB01

Substances: disulfiram


The interpretation of results from clinical studies is limited by few women being included in the studies. This may partly explain why studies show significant effect in men but not in women.

Additional information

The risk of alcohol use according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, was ranked as number three in men and number twelve in women. Disability-adjusted life years were three times higher in men than in women and alcohol related deaths were twice as common in men as in women [1].

In Sweden, hospital care due to alcohol related diagnoses were twice as common in men compared to women in 2012 and alcohol related deaths were more common in men than in women [2].

Pharmacokinetics and dosing

A laboratory study of disulfiram added to blood from alcoholic patients (n=26) and healthy controls (n=18) reported that the metabolism of the ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde was inhibited similarly in men and women [3]. No sex differentiation in dosing has been recommended by the manufacturer [4].


Alcohol dependenceIn an observational study, patients with alcohol dependence (176 men, 33 women) were prescribed disulfiram (82%), acamprosate (14%) or disulfiram + acamprosate (10%) in addition to supportive counseling during 6 months. It showed that absence of heavy relapse in drinking was higher in men than in women (56% vs. 36%) [5]. Similarly, a review of disulfiram treatment in alcoholism including data from two large trials in alcoholics (500 men, 60 women and also 1020 patients with unknown sex distribution) showed a better outcome in men than in women [6, 7].

Opioid dependenceA Cochrane report states that there is little evidence supporting the clinical use of disulfiram in the treatment of cocaine dependence [8]. Disulfiram is not approved for treatment of opioid dependence in Sweden or the US [4, 9].

Two pooled analyses of six randomized placebo-controlled trials of disulfiram and behavioral therapies during 8-12 weeks in cocaine dependent patients (324 men, 179 women, in all) showed a poorer outcome in women than in men [10, 11].

Adverse effects

No studies with a clinically relevant sex analysis regarding the adverse effects of disulfiram have been found.

Reproductive health issues

Regarding teratogenic aspects, please consult Janusmed Drugs and Birth Defects (in Swedish, Janusmed fosterpåverkan).

Other information

A retrospective cross-sectional study of patients with alcohol dependence (833 men, 218 women) treated with supportive counseling and disulfiram or naltrexone showed that the retention of treatment was similar in men and women [12].

A US study based on data from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of treatment of alcohol misuse (270 774 men, 9 319 women) showed that women were more likely than men to receive a prescription of acamprosate (1% vs. 0.6%), naltrexone (2.9% vs. 1.6%), disulfiram (1.8% vs 1.1%), or any medication (5.2% vs. 3%). The odds ratio for receiving any of these medications was 1.58 in women compared to men [13].

Randomized studies of compliance to disulfiram treatment (291 men, 143 women) of cocaine dependence have shown no sex differences [10].

Updated: 2020-08-28

Date of litterature search: 2016-04-19


  1. Lim SS, Vos T, Flaxman AD, Danaei G, Shibuya K, Adair-Rohani H et al. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 2012;380:2224-60. PubMed
  2. Folkhälsan i Sverige Årsrapport 2014. Folkhalsomyndigheten [www]. [updated 2015-12-28, cited 2016-04-19]. Länk
  3. Helander A, Löwenmo C, Johansson M. Distribution of acetaldehyde in human blood: effects of ethanol and treatment with disulfiram. Alcohol Alcohol. 1993;28:461-8. PubMed
  4. ANTABUS (disulfiram). Summary of Product Characteristics. Medical Products Agency (MPA); 2016.
  5. Aguiar P, Neto D, Lambaz R, Chick J, Ferrinho P. Prognostic factors during outpatient treatment for alcohol dependence: cohort study with 6 months of treatment follow-up. Alcohol Alcohol. 2012;47:702-10. PubMed
  6. HOFF EC, MCKEOWN CE. An evaluation of the use of tetraethylthiuram disulfide in the treatment of 560 cases of alcohol addiction. Am J Psychiatry. 1953;109:670-3. PubMed
  7. Lundwall L, Baekeland F. Disulfiram treatment of alcoholism. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1971;153:381-94. PubMed
  8. Pani PP, Trogu E, Vacca R, Amato L, Vecchi S, Davoli M. Disulfiram for the treatment of cocaine dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;1:CD007024. PubMed
  9. DISULFIRAM (disulfiram). DailyMed [www]. US National Library of Medicine. [updated 2012-08-31, cited 2016-03-31]. Länk
  10. DeVito EE, Babuscio TA, Nich C, Ball SA, Carroll KM. Gender differences in clinical outcomes for cocaine dependence: randomized clinical trials of behavioral therapy and disulfiram. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014;145:156-67. PubMed
  11. Nich C, McCance-Katz EF, Petrakis IL, Cubells JF, Rounsaville BJ, Carroll KM. Sex differences in cocaine-dependent individuals' response to disulfiram treatment. Addict Behav. 2004;29:1123-8. PubMed
  12. Fonsi Elbreder M, de Souza e Silva R, Pillon SC, Laranjeira R. Alcohol dependence: analysis of factors associated with retention of patients in outpatient treatment. Alcohol Alcohol. 2011;46:74-6. PubMed
  13. Harris AH, Kivlahan DR, Bowe T, Humphreys KN. Pharmacotherapy of alcohol use disorders in the Veterans Health Administration. Psychiatr Serv. 2010;61:392-8. PubMed
  14. Socialstyrelsens statistikdatabas . Stockholm: Socialstyrelsen. 2014 [cited 2016-02-17.] Socialstyrelsens statistikdatabas

Authors: Maria Enghag

Reviewed by: Mia von Euler

Approved by: Karin Schenck-Gustafsson