Hangover Pill Promises to 'Break Down Alcohol Effectively'

A pill that goes on sale in the U.K. on Monday holds out the prospect that many drinkers have long dreamed of—being able to have a few drinks without suffering the full after-effects of a hangover the next day.

Sold at £1 ($1.21) per pill, Myrkl's makers say that if you take two pills at least one hour before drinking, it will result in "up to 70 percent of alcohol [being] broken down after 60 minutes", and is the "first product in history to break down alcohol effectively".

Swedish firm De Faire Medical invented the pills in 1990 and has been doing further research on them since then, according to the website.

The pills contain a "science based formulation" of bacteria, L-cysteine (an amino acid found in tuna and oatmeal) and Vitamin B12 (found in meat, eggs, and milk, among other sources).

While scientists don't fully understand why drinking copious amounts of alcohol results in a headache and nausea the next day, they do have a good idea of the chemical pathways that contribute to a hangover. As your liver breaks down the ethanol in your beer, it's turned into acetaldehyde before being converted into acetic acid more slowly. Acetaldehyde is between 10 and 30 times as toxic as alcohol, and is found to cause symptoms such as sweating, skin flushing, nausea and vomiting.

Stock image of a woman suffering from a hangover. Myrkl claims that their pills will prevent a hangover. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Other theories include alcohol triggering an immune response, as some studies found correlations between levels of immune signaling molecules called cytokines and hangover symptoms, or a stunting of the metabolic system due to a build up of byproducts. Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning that you are likely very dehydrated the morning after a heavy one, which will only exacerbate all of these symptoms.

Myrkl's makers say the pill combats the onset of a hangover by activating its bacteria (Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans), L-cysteine and B12 in the gut, before the alcohol reaches the liver. They then work together to break the alcohol down into water and carbon dioxide, with minimal production of acetaldehyde or acetic acid.

"Marking the first time in history that a consumer product is demonstrated to effectively and rapidly break down alcohol, we are very excited to be launching this ground-breaking product in the U.K. and in most European markets," Håkan Magnusson, CEO of De Faire Medical, said in a statement, quoted by Britain's Telegraph newspaper.

"Myrkl's purpose is therefore to help those regular moderate drinkers to wake up feeling their best the next day, whether they're a busy working professional, young parents, or seniors who want to maintain an active social life," he said.

"The independent clinical trials prove just how powerful this product is at breaking down alcohol," he added.

hangover cure
A packet of Myrkl pills. Myrkl

Both species of bacteria included in the Myrkl pill are probiotic bacteria thought to be healthy for digestion. B. coagulans is naturally found in kimchi and yogurt, and while some researchers have genetically modified B. subtilis to break down acetaldehyde, there is no evidence that Myrkl contains a GMO version of the bacteria.

L-cysteine is sometimes touted as a hangover cure, however there is no solid evidence that this is true. Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, a New York City-based registered dietitian, told Verywell Health: "After looking at the limited research, I wouldn't bank on L-cysteine being the winning hangover cure we all hoped for."

A clinical study of the Myrkl pills was published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, which involved a placebo-controlled double-blind crossover study with 24 subjects.

While the study found that the blood alcohol of participants significantly reduced by 70 percent, the subjects only consumed 0.3 g of spirit per kg of body weight, which the authors admit led to no measurable relevant alcohol concentrations in the blood in 10 cases (42 percent). Additionally, this 70 percent reduction only came after a week of supplementation, and the study involved a very small sample size of 24, further reduced to 14 by the low alcohol intake.

The study was funded by De Faire Medical AB (DFM), the manufacturers and inventors of Myrkl. Newsweek has contacted DFM for comment.