Medication may give children with epilepsy more seizure-free days

November 09, 1999

ST. PAUL, MN ­ Children with difficult-to-control seizures may find relief by taking lamotrigine, according to a study in the November 10 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"At last children with difficult-to-control epilepsy can enjoy more seizure-free days," said child neurologist and study author William Graf, MD, of the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, WA. "This medication not only helps control seizures, it works without causing drowsiness. Kids can now stay awake in class and participate in after-school activities. That's exciting news for these kids."

Researchers studied 167 children with partial seizures in the United States and France aged 2 to 16. Children participating in the study experienced eight or more partial seizures within eight weeks while taking their current medication.

Children were given either lamotrigine or a placebo in addition to their current seizure medication. Approximately 90 patients took lamotrigine for at least 18 weeks. Throughout the study, researchers recorded the number and type of seizure for each patient, the dose of the medication, side effects and results of neurological examinations.

Forty-five percent of children taking lamotrigine and 16 percent of children taking a placebo experienced 50 percent fewer partial seizures (seizures originating in one area of the brain) per week. Approximately 53 percent of children taking lamotrigine and 26 percent of children who took a placebo experienced a 50-percent decrease per week in secondary generalized seizures (seizures starting in one area of the brain that later spread to the entire brain).

Side effects were minimal. For patients taking lamotrigine or placebo, the most common side effect was skin rashes.

"There is a tremendous need for medications such as lamotrigine that are proven safe for children," said neurologist and lead study author Michael Duchowny, MD, of Miami Children's Hospital in Miami, FL. "Parents don't want to put their children at risk by giving them medications that may cause serious side effects."

In adults, lamotrigine is used alone or with other anti-epileptic medications to treat partial seizures. This study of children only examined lamotrigine when used in combination with other anti-epileptic medications.

Seizures, the hallmark of epilepsy, are abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that temporarily disrupt normal brain function. Seizures are classified as either generalized when the abnormal discharge affects both sides of the brain simultaneously, or partial when the discharge affects one part of the brain initially.

Research was supported by GlaxoWellcome, which makes medication to treat epileptic seizures.
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The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 16,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.

American Academy of Neurology

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