Burgundy Wine Auction in Beaune November 18, 2012
If you drink two large glasses of wine a night (approximately half a bottle) you could be eligible for the NHS's new alcohol-beating drugReuters

If you drink half a bottle of wine a day and live in England or Wales, the NHS is getting ready to offer you a new pill that will help you cut down your consumption.

The drug, which is called nalmefene and also known as trade name Selincro, will cost the health service £288m a year (£3 a pill) and could save as many as 1,900 lives over the next five years, and prevent 43,000 alcohol-related diseases and injuries.

Drinkers take the pill orally once a day when they feel the urge to have a drink. It works by blocking part of the brain that gives people pleasure from alcohol, stopping them from wanting more than one drink.

Experts say that trials of the controversial new tablet showed it cut drinking by 61% over six months when used alongside counselling.

A final decision on the roll-out will be taken by the NHS in November. If successful, men who consume 7.5 units a day (three or four pints of standard strength lager) and women who drink 5 units (half a bottle of wine) will qualify for the free treatment.

Professor Carole Longson at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (Nice), which recommended the use of the drug in the UK, said: "Alcohol dependence is a serious issue for many people.

"Those who could be prescribed nalmefene have already taken the first big step by visiting their doctor, engaging with support services and taking part in therapy programmes.

"When used alongside psychosocial support, nalmefene is clinically and cost-effective for the NHS compared with psychosocial support alone."

The drug has been available to patients in Scotland since October last year.