Despite taking medication, many epileptic children still suffer from associated seizures. Now Saudi Arabian researchers might have undertaken the first steps to change this.
Epileptic seizures are abnormal electrical discharges in the brain which are usually accompanied by sudden brief episodes of altered or diminished consciousness or convulsions. These do not cease in many children affected by this disease, even those subject to an optimized therapy relying on common medication. Alternative pharmacological treatments are thus of paramount importance, especially for patients suffering from the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy.
In a study that was published last month in the Journal Pediatric Neurology, the research team led by Dr. Mohammed M. S. Jan at the King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Saudi Arabia investigated whether the new anti-epileptic drug pregabalin could be a therapeutic option in order to substantially reduce such seizures. These discharges occur because excitatory connections between nerve cells prevail with respect to inhibitory ones, and it is the precise balance between excitation and inhibition that hallmarks a healthy brain. The pharmacological agent pregabalin, which was introduced in Saudi Arabia in 2007, weakens the excitatory connections between nerve cells and thus lessens global bursts of brain activity.
Nineteen children ranging 4-15 years of age were treated with pregabalin, in addition to 2-4 other drugs. All of these children had no success with other anti-epileptic drugs and most suffered from daily seizures.
After a few months, one child was completely cured from seizures, and seven others had half as many seizures. Some children experienced sleepiness and weight gain, while taking pregabalin. In two children suffering from myoclonic epilepsy, the researchers noticed an increase in involuntary muscle contractions. The researchers thus concluded that pregablin should be applied with caution in children suffering from this type of epilepsy.
Whether epilepsy might be treated with pregabalin only, Dr. Jan told CheckOrphan, “We are currently collecting more data with longer follow up on these patients.” These further studies will help determine the safety and efficacy of pregabalin as an anti-epileptic drug.
Mohammed M.S. Jan et al. Pregabalin: Preliminary experience in intractable childhood epilepsy. Pediatric Neurology 40 (2009), pp. 347-350 (doi:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2008.12.016).
Mohammed M.S. Jan
Department of Pediatrics
King Abdulaziz University Hospital
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: +966 6401000 Ext. 18329
Thomas Petermann ([email protected]) is a Science Writer for CheckOrphan in Basel, Switzerland and received his PhD from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.