New study looks at effectiveness of emergency epilepsy medications

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new study says there are effective treatments that will stop life-threatening epilepsy seizures when an initial treatment has already failed.

According to a release, the study offers answers regarding three emergency drugs that are used to treat prolonged seizure episodes, which are known as status epilepticus, that physicians have previously had little understanding of their effectiveness.

The three drugs are called intravenous levetiracetam, fosphenytoin, and valproate. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found all three were about equally effective at stopping prolonged seizure episodes when the default medication choice, benzodiazepines, did not.

The release says the results were so clear to the researchers that they stopped the study early.

"When we planned the study, we didn't even know if these drugs work ten percent, 25 percent or 50 percent of the time," said Jaideep Kapur, MBBS, PhD, the head of the UVA Brain Institute. "So the big takeaway is that each of these drugs works about 45 percent of the time. And this is an important finding because it tells us patients can get better. They don't have to be placed on a ventilator."

The release says the finding affirmed existing clinical practices and also suggested a major change that can be made.

Kapur said this research means doctors can feel confident that their preferred drug of choice will be as effective as other options, though they should also significantly increase the dosage of levetiracetam when that particular drug is selected as a treatment. Previously, he said people were using their best guess about how much to use.

The release adds the researchers were testing the maximum safe dosage of each medication so that there would be no questions regarding whether too little had been used and to gauge the medicine's effectiveness.

The study looked at the effect of the drugs in 384 patients at 57 emergency departments across the country between November 2015 and October 2017, though it originally was supposed to look at 795 patients over five years.

However, Kapur says the results were so clear that further study was unnecessary and the study was stopped.

The researchers will now turn to look into the effectiveness and dosing of the drugs in children, because the causes of status epilepticus in adults and children can be different.

The results of this study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.



 
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