The NCOA and The Epilepsy Foundation launch initiative to educate about epilepsy in the elderly

December 09, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC and BOSTON - December 9, 2003 - Today at a media briefing in Boston, The National Council on the Aging (NCOA), The Epilepsy Foundation and UCB Pharma, Inc. announced an initiative to raise awareness of the national concern of epilepsy in the elderly and highlight the increasing incidence of the disorder in this population. The groups will address the challenges of treating elderly patients with epilepsy and improving their quality of life.

Epilepsy is often considered a disorder of the young, but the greatest number of newly diagnosed cases each year occurs in the elderly. People over 65 are the fastest-growing group in America to develop the disorder.

"Few realize that epilepsy is not just a disorder people are born with - that epilepsy can develop as people age," said NCOA President and CEO James P. Firman. He also noted that within 30 years, one out of every five Americans will be 65 or older, increasing the importance of managing health risks for the elderly.

"Epilepsy can be difficult to recognize in elderly people because it's not just falling down on the floor and convulsing," said Eric Hargas, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. "Symptoms of epilepsy can be very subtle like hearing unusual sounds, blurred vision or sudden anxiety."

The disorder often develops as a result of common health problems in the elderly including stroke, certain types of cancers or heart diseases. Once diagnosed, physicians then face the challenge of simultaneously treating patients for epilepsy and other conditions.

"It's important for all epilepsy patients to find a therapy that provides seizure freedom without side effects," said Eugene Ramsay M.D., director, International Center for Epilepsy, University of Miami School of Medicine. "Seniors are often treating multiple health problems, so it is especially important to be aware of potential drug-drug interactions."

This year, new data being presented at the American Epilepsy Society (AES), the largest annual scientific meeting of professionals in this field, provides insight and therapy options for treating this population. One recent study found one of the newer antiepileptic drugs was highly effective in preventing seizures without interacting with other medications for more than 70 percent of the elderly patients evaluated.

Finding a treatment that controls seizures and provides few side effects is important to the quality of life for this group of patients. "Now that I have a new medication that's finally controlling the seizures, I would say the entire family is happy," said Lucius Harvey, a 67-year-old epilepsy patient from Homestead, Florida.

For more information about recognizing signs of epilepsy in the elderly, visit the NCOA's web site at or visit
Founded in 1950, The National Council on the Aging is a national voluntary network of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the health and independence of older persons; increasing their continuing contributions to communities, society, and future generations; and to building caring communities. NCOA is a national voice and powerful advocate for public policies, societal attitudes, and business practices that promote vital aging. NCOA is an innovator, developing new knowledge, testing creative ideas, and translating research into effective programs and services that help community service organizations serve seniors in hundreds of communities. And, NCOA is an activator, turning creative ideas into programs and services that help community services organizations serve seniors in hundreds of communities. For more information on NCOA, visit:

American Epilepsy Society

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