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Updated on 10/05/2001





This page is frequently updated. Please check back often for recent developments in epilepsy. Below is a summary of each news article. Please click the heading for the source.



New Online Gene Discovery Project launched - a Matching Service for Families / Researchers PRNewsWire May 9th

The Epilepsy Foundation today launched a new version of its novel Gene Discovery Project to forge research partnerships between medical centers and families with epilepsy -- Created to speed research toward better treatment, prevention and cures for seizure disorders and useful for scientists who study rare forms of epilepsy to locate families interested in research. The Internet-based project allows families with a history of epilepsy to draw their family tree so that it can be viewed anonymously by approved research groups working to find genes associated with epilepsy and seizure disorders. If selected for further study, the Epilepsy Foundation notifies the family with information on how they may contact the researchers directly. Users can also print out their family history of epilepsy and its graphic representation.

Tracking down Seizures BEA 30 Apr 2001

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center are continuing research into the pattern of human brain activity that indicates the conditions triggering seizures can take hours to develop; cycles of abnormal brain activity last 15 to 30 minutes and the discharges became more frequent over a period of hours as they led to brief, asymptomatic seizures at specific points in the brain. This information provides a real opportunity to stop abnormal activity in epileptic brain regions before seizures develop. Although substantial work remains before the study findings can be put to clinical use, it is believe that scientists may eventually be able to implant devices in the brain that will abort seizures by reacting to, and diffusing, the cycle of increasing abnormal brain activity.


Epilepsy advice now available on WAP phones  BEA 23 Apr 2001

BEA has launched a new website allowing people with WAP-enabled mobile phones to gain instant access to epilepsy advice and information. This site includes information on what to do if someone has a seizure in addition to basic information on epilepsy and BEA. WAP users can access the site at


Safety Advice for Swimming Highlighted  BEA 23 Apr 2001

A clinical review in the British Medical Journal has highlighted the safety issues involved for people with epilepsy when swimming in response to a case of 14 year old boy who drowned in a lake during a school outing after a tonic seizure. The article concludes that young people with epilepsy shouldn't be discouraged from swimming, however, adequate supervision, possibly on a one-to-one basis, is essential. The person supervising should be strong enough to resuce the swimmer and be aware of what action to take should a seizure occur. In addition, people with epilepsy should avoid swimming in murky or deep water, suggesting that the safest option is in the shallow end of a clear swimming pool.


J Am Pharm Assoc 22 Apr 2001


With the medications now available, it is estimated that 30% to 50% of people with epilepsy continue to experience seizures despite treatment even with the use of multiple-AED regimens. Three new AED are marketed in the first 6 months of 2000; includes levetiracetam (Keppra -- UCB Pharma), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal -- Novartis), and zonisamide (Zonegran -- Elan). These three agents have been approved for use in conjunction with other AEDs in the treatment of partial seizures, and oxcarbazepine also for use as monotherapy in adults. All of the new AEDs provide alternatives that is more effective and/or better tolerated than the regimens now being used by many patients. As with other AEDs, central nervous system (CNS) reactions are the most frequently experienced adverse events with the use of each of the new agents. They are classified in Pregnancy Category C and may cause fetal abnormalities if used during pregnancy. If one of these agents is being considered for use in a nursing woman, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or not use the drug. The effectiveness and safety of levetiracetam and zonisamide in patients under 16 years of age have not been established; however, oxcarbazepine has been approved for use as adjunctive therapy in children as young as 4 years of age.


Epilepsy Drugs Cause Birth Defects   12 Apr 2001

Anti-seizure drugs given to epileptic women account for the higher-than-normal rates of birth defects in their babies, a study suggests. Many doctors believe that epilepsy itself contributes to defects. However, the study in latest New England Journal of Medicine found that epileptic mothers who stopped taking anti-seizure drugs were no more likely than other women to have children with birth defects. Out of 316 babies exposed to the drugs in the womb and 98 whose mothers had taken them in the past because of epilepsy, major birth defects were found in 4 percent of the 223 babies whose mother had taken one drug during pregnancy, and 8.6 percent of the 93 whose mothers had taken two or more. None of the 98 babies whose mothers had stopped taking drugs for seizures had major birth defects. Also, the study confirms that taking two drugs endangers the fetus more than taking one, and makes the new point that switching drugs (such as to Phenobarbital) during pregnancy is as dangerous as taking two drugs at once and a bad practice by many obstetricians.


BEA 9th Apr 2001

UN study shows worldwide majority of people with epilepsy get no help

39 million people across the planet have epilepsy, however 30 million of them -- nearly three out of every four -- get almost no help for the condition ( from the Bulletin of the World Health Organization). Epilepsy carries a heavy burden of stigma that poses a major obstacle to treatment, according to the study. The treatment gap is also the result of the low priority health authorities often give to epilepsy. They blame this on negative cultural attitudes, poverty, poor health infrastructure and inadequate supplies of anti-epileptic drugs. Poverty is to be dealt with simultaneously on the local, national, and global levels. A number of projects, launched in Africa, aim to reduce stigma and provide epilepsy sufferers with simple drug treatment free of charge.


BEA 9th Apr 2001

Report on Improving Patient Compliance with Medicines

Research published in journal Neurology investigates the link between simple directions for the taking of drugs and the likelihood of the medication being taken correctly. The researchers say their study was not long enough to come to any specific conclusions but suggest that the simple dosing requirements which is easier to follow may have led to better overall compliance in the group taking 900mg gabapentin a day. Gabapentin, a common drug for epilepsy, calls for patients to begin the therapy with a 300mg dose on the first day of initiation, followed by 60mg on day two, then 900mg each day after that, presumably to reduce side effects such as sleepiness, dizziness, muscle coordination, and fatigue.