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Promising Epilepsy Rx from UC-Davis

A new treatment announced this week may offer some hope for severe “super-refractory” epileptic patients who are unable to stop their seizures by other means, according to a report from researchers at UC-Davis.

The first clinical use of the experimental new medication showed promising results in the first few patients to receive it, according to Michael Rogawski, co-author of the report and a professor at UC-Davis Department of Neurology.

“Everything had been tried, they were going to withdraw life support and we were able to stop their seizures and stop those seizures from recurring after they were taken off general anesthesia,” Rogawski said.

“These are patients where there was nothing else to try,” he said. “That’s where the hope comes from.”

Super-refractory patients are a small subset of patients with long-duration seizures generally related to epilepsy. There are an estimated 13,000 to 19,000 of them in the nation, Rogawski said. Mortality from the condition is 40%, he said, with 90% of patients developing functional impairment.

One of the last-resort ways to stop super-refractory seizures is to put patients under general anesthetic, but some patients start having seizures again as soon as they come off anesthesia, Rogawski said. For those patients, there is no real treatment, he said, which is why FDA approved these limited clinical uses.

The research paper was published this week in Annals of Neurology, an official journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society. 

The new drug formulation, called allopregnanolone, was produced in by the UC-Davis Good Manufacturing Practice Laboratory.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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