Intended for healthcare professionals


Sixty seconds on . . . the end of hangovers?

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 14 July 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1753
  1. Luke Taylor
  1. Portsmouth

The dream is finally here

A new pill touted as the end of hangovers sold out less than 24 hours after it was released. De Faire Medical, the Swedish probiotics firm behind Myrkl, claims its product is the first in history to break down alcohol effectively. Consumers are advised to take two pills at least one hour—and no more than 12 hours—before drinking alcohol. And it’s cheap: £1 a pill.

What’s in this magic cocktail?

The pills’ main ingredients are probiotics such as Bacillus subtilis and B coagulans—though it also contains L-cysteine, an amino acid found in protein rich foods, and vitamin B12. De Faire Medical says the combination is the result of 30 years of research and development.

Science or just pub chat?

When alcohol reaches the liver it is broken down into acetic acid. This produces acetaldehyde—a toxic by-product that De Faire Medical says is the culprit for a sore head, fatigue, and nausea after a heavy night out. By breaking down alcohol into CO2 and water in the stomach before the toxin reaches the liver, the bacteria reduce the chance of a nasty hangover.

Just marketing claims?

In an independent study published in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights subjects who consumed Myrkl had 70% less alcohol in their blood an hour after drinking and 50% less after two hours.1 Alcohol in their breath was also reduced by around 30%. But the study has some serious limitations.

Such as?

Participants consumed the recommended daily dose of two pills a day, but every day for a week rather than just two pills on the day of drinking as recommended. And participants consumed a single glass of 40% strength vodka—so not quite a Friday night binge. The drink measures were so small that alcohol levels were unmeasurable in 10 of the 24 study participants. That meant that data could only be analysed from 14, all of whom were white, healthy, and had an average age of 25.

Hmmm. So not time to get a round in?

If the supplement does prevent a hangover, it will also stop people from getting drunk. The pill breaks down alcohol before it reaches the liver, so those drinking for a buzz, some liquid confidence, or something more irresponsible won’t find it if the pill works as claimed. It also acts once alcohol has passed through the stomach—so if you’re susceptible to a round of vomiting the morning after a night out, it probably won’t help.