Researchers at University of Minnesota in the US found that shopaholics given the medication spent less time shopping and cut the cash they squandered on impulse buys.
Psychiatrists have struggled to come up with effective treatments for compulsive shoppers who just can't resist their urge to buy and often end up in buying things they don't need and can't afford. Over four out of five sufferers are women.
In the new trials, the researchers tested a medication called memantine, normally prescribed to prevent deterioration in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's.
Results showed that after eight weeks, men and women taking the pill reduced the amount of time shopping and the amount of money spent.
Overall, the researchers said, symptoms were halved, with less impulsive buying and improvements in brain function linked to impulsive urges, thoughts and behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.
"Hours spent shopping per week and money spent shopping both decreased significantly, with no side effects," the team explained.
Those taking part in the study were diagnosed with compulsive buying disorder, based on "senseless preoccupation" with shopping and spending. This led to distress, an inability to function at work or socially and financial problems.
People in the trial earned almost 40,000 pounds a year on average, but were spending 61 per cent of their income on impulsive purchases, mostly clothes.
During the two-month trial, the researchers scored the participants on a range of tests, measuring symptoms such as buying urges, anxiety, depression, stress and disability caused by the problem.
According to the team, memantine, which was given to the participants memantine, acts on the brain chemical glutamate that is thought to be involved in the development of dementia, but it is also believed to be involved in obsessiveness and may play some role in OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders).
"Our findings suggest that pharmacologic manipulation of the glutamate system may target the impulsive behaviour underlying compulsive buying," the team added.