Research yields new epilepsy guidelines

In conjunction with the AMA, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society on April 26 jointly announced new guidelines for treating epilepsy. The number of anti-epileptic drugs has more than doubled in the last decade.

Jacqueline French, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and Andres Kanner, MD, professor of neurological sciences at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, announced the guidelines during an AMA media briefing in partnership with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Epilepsy Society at the AAN’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Data from more than 1,400 research articles were evaluated in creating the guidelines, which were necessitated by the explosion in epilepsy research in recent years. The authors created two sets of guidelines, one for newly diagnosed epilepsy and one for cases difficult to manage with older drugs.

Because of their previous experience with older anti-epileptic drugs, many physicians are comfortable using them, but need guidance in using newer drugs, each of which is unique in its mode of action, side effect profile and set of drug interactions.

"Epilepsy often strikes when people are young and patients will be on medication for decades," said Dr. French. "The older drugs are all known to have significant impact on liver metabolism which can affect other drugs a patient takes as well as the body's own hormone metabolism. Other possible side effects include osteoporosis, sleepiness and confusion. These new drugs may offer a significantly better day-to-day quality of life for the patient who must take them for years."

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