FDA approval for VNS Therapy will help people with epilepsy

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy for treatment of chronic depression provides a novel single-treatment option for two major symptoms suffered by people with epilepsy.

There are 2.7 million Americans with epilepsy, and an estimated 36 percent of them suffer from clinical depression. VNS Therapy, a form of treatment in use to control seizures, now offers the potential of making life better for people with epilepsy by mitigating both the seizures and the accompanying mood disorder.

Depression is one of the most under-recognized and under-treated conditions in people with epilepsy. According to a recent study out of New York University, depression has a significantly greater negative impact on quality of life than the seizures themselves. Vagus Nerve Stimulation entails having a small electrical device implanted in the patient's chest and connected to the vagus nerve at the side of the neck. Manufactured by Cyberonics, the device delivers small bursts of electricity at various intervals to prevent a seizure from happening. It has become a common method of treatment for epilepsy since its approval by the FDA in 1997.

"We are extremely pleased with the FDA's approval of VNS Therapy as a long-term adjunctive treatment in chronic depression. Depression affects more than a third of all individuals with epilepsy," said Eric Hargis, president and CEO of the national Epilepsy Foundation. "Yet, it is greatly under- diagnosed in people with seizure disorders. The FDA decision offers a significant new treatment option for patients and families affected by these co-existing conditions."

In addition to the depression associated with epilepsy itself, the mood disorder is correlated with being either a young female adult, having lower income, lower rates of employment, more disability, more social concerns and more side effects due to antiepileptic medication. The Epilepsy Foundation has several initiatives in place meant to address and combat this psychological impact of epilepsy.

http://www.efa.org/

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