Physicians have identified what they say is a promising new treatment for epilepsy that reduces the number of seizures while helping patients lead more productive lives.
The study is the first to show that an antiepileptic drug typically used in combination with other drugs, might be successful as a standalone. That’s important; single-drug therapies are often more successful because patients find it easier to stay on the course of treatment compared to therapies involving multiple drugs.From the University of California at Davis:Promising New Treatment for Epilepsy
Physicians at UC Davis Medical Center have identified a promising new treatment for epilepsy that reduces the number of seizures while helping patients lead more productive lives.
The study is the first to show that Levetiracetam (LEV), an antiepileptic drug typically used in combination with other drugs, might be successful as a single drug. The results were published in the October issue of Epilepsy and Behavior and will be presented at the American Epilepsy Association conference in Seattle this December.
“We found that LEV can be effective as a single drug, or monotherapy, in patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy, as well as in patients with difficult-to-control seizures,” said Taoufik M. Alsaadi, assistant professor of neurology and co-director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. “In addition, it is very well tolerated, with only a small number of patients discontinuing the drug due to side effects.”
Single-drug therapies are often more successful because patients find it easier to stay on the course of treatment compared to therapies involving multiple drugs. The challenge, according to Alsaadi, is to find single medications that work for specific patients. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures, which are recurring disturbances in the normal electrical function of the brain. The condition affects more than 40 million people of all ages worldwide, including approximately 2.5 million Americans. The causes of epilepsy remain only partially understood.
The study included 37 patients who had suffered with epilepsy for an average of more than 12 years. For nine of the patients, LEV represented their first treatment for epilepsy. Among these patients, seven continued on the therapy for the full six-month study period. Four of the patients became seizure-free, and the remaining three reduced seizures by at least 75 percent.
The second group included 28 patients suffering from difficult-to-control seizures — some for decades. These patients converted to LEV after achieving unsatisfactory results with other anti-epileptic drugs. Nearly 80 percent of the patients reduced seizures by at least half. One-third of the patients (nine) became seizure free.
“Compared with other treatments, patients in the study reported fewer side effects such as grogginess, poor cognition and memory loss that can hinder the ability to work and maintain relationships,” said Katy Thieman, a family nurse practitioner with the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program who co-authored the study. “This treatment shows promise to improve the quality of life for people suffering from epilepsy.”
A larger, double-blind study is needed to confirm the findings, said Alsaadi. Levetiracetam is manufactured by UCB Pharma, a global pharmaceutical company based in Belgium.
The study was funded by the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, which provides a broad range of specialized services for people with epilepsy through multidisciplinary team medical care, modern drug therapies, innovative research and state-of-the art diagnostic and surgical techniques. The program draws upon the expertise of physicians and staff in neurology and neurosurgery to offer patients and families a wide range of treatment options.
Other critical studies under way at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program include:
* The quality of life in patients who have failed multi-drug therapies and are now on a single drug;
* The incidence and frequency of polycystic ovary syndrome in women with epilepsy who are taking anti-epileptic medication. The study seeks to identify links between this major health problem and epilepsy and/or the drugs used to treat it;
* New uses for standard anti-epileptic drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in fighting epilepsy (Phase III trial); and
* New anti-epileptic medications not yet approved by the FDA (Phase II trial). This study provides patients an opportunity to try the newest, emerging therapies if their current medication is not working.
The study was funded by the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.