Epilepsy Talk

Exciting news! New pill developed to suppress epilepsy seizures | May 28, 2014

Exciting news from Medical News Today!

Within a decade, people with drug-resistant epilepsy may be able to take a pill to suppress seizures as required, in a similar way to how we take painkillers to relieve a headache.

Around 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide. Of these, about 70% respond positively to anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). After 2-5 years of successful treatment, the drugs can be withdrawn in 70% of children and 60% of adults without relapses. People who do not respond to drug treatments may instead have to undergo surgery.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK believe that the new “on demand” seizure suppressant pill they have developed may offer help to this 30% of epilepsy patients who do not respond successfully to AEDs.

The new treatment – which has only been tested on rodents so far – makes brain cells more sensitive to a compound in the brain that is normally inactive.

Senior author of the research behind the new treatment, Prof. Dimitri Kullmann of the UCL Institute of Neurology, explains how the drug works:

“First, we inject a modified virus into the area of the brain where seizures arise. This virus instructs the brain cells to make a protein that is activated by CNO (clozapine-N-oxide), a compound that can be taken as a pill. The activated protein then suppresses the over-excitable brain cells that trigger seizures, but only in the presence of CNO.”

Currently, severe seizures are treated with drugs that suppress the excitability of all cells in the brain, which results in side effects. If the dose needed to stop a seizure is very high, patients may need to be sedated and taken to intensive care.

MRI scans

The new treatment suppresses the over-excitable brain cells that trigger seizures.

“If we can take our new method into the clinic,” says Prof. Kullmann, “which we hope to do within the next decade, we could treat patients who are susceptible to severe seizures with a one-off injection of the modified virus, and then use CNO only when needed.”

Many people with treatment-resistant epilepsy experience clusters of smaller seizures in advance of a severe seizure. Prof. Kullman envisions patients taking the pill in these situations, when they are able to predict when severe seizures might occur.

Other factors that exacerbate seizure risk in this group include illness, sleep deprivation and certain times of the menstrual cycle, so the pill could also be taken as a preventative measure in these scenarios.

The team also suggests other delivery methods — for instance, an injection may be a more appropriate way to deliver the compound in some cases. An automatic delivery system, where the CNO is delivered using a pump – similar to the way insulin is administered to some people with diabetes — is also feasible.

‘Completely reversible’ treatment avoids permanent side effects.

Prof. Kullmann claims that the “new method is completely reversible,” so if patients taking the compound experience any side effects then they would only have to simply stop taking the pill.

Medical News Today queried with Prof. Kullmann whether there could be any potential for adverse reactions to occur in patients as a consequence of the modified virus, however. He responded:

“The modified virus has been disabled so it can’t make more viruses and spread. The injection involves a minor surgical procedure to make a small hole in the skull and pass a needle through the lining of the brain, but this is far less invasive than epilepsy surgery, which can involve taking out a few cubic centimetres of brain tissue.”

Another advantage of CNO is that the compound has a short half-life of just a few hours and only affects the pre-treated epileptic areas of the brain. This avoids the problem of the whole brain being affected, as in the case of seizure-suppressing drugs, or of permanent alterations being made to the brain as with more invasive treatments.

“Short-acting drugs are occasionally used in epilepsy,” Prof. Kullmann told us. “However, because they affect the entire brain they have a limited role, and they are typically reserved for stopping severe seizures in the emergency department. The main limitation of short-acting drugs is that they depress breathing and so patients need to be admitted to the intensive care unit. Because we are only proposing to treat the epilepsy focus, our approach avoids this complication.”





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  1. Fundamental milestone in combating this menace, Epilepsy.
    Let’s hope the research is further more pushed to include using the pills as FLUE SHOTS, seasonal on demand treatment in public pharmacies.
    Thank you for sharing the good news.


    Comment by Gerrie — May 28, 2014 @ 12:07 PM

  2. Fingers crossed Gerrie!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2014 @ 12:59 PM

    • Phyllis,
      If we can land in the moon, we can do a whole lot more on earth, provided there’s DEVOTED & COMMITTED FUNDING, interest, resources & brain-power to combat Epilepsy.
      It’s all about our priorities.


      Comment by Gerrie — May 28, 2014 @ 1:24 PM

  3. Read this and weep, Gerrie:

    There are 200,000 new cases of epilepsy each year, and a total of more than 3 million Americans are affected by it.

    Yet, public and private funding for epilepsy research lags far behind other neurological afflictions, at $35 a patient (compared, for instance, with $129 for Alzheimer’s and $280 for multiple sclerosis).

    In total, and per patient, epilepsy research is significantly underfunded from three major sources: pharmaceutical companies, the government, and private foundations.

    Pharmaceutical investment in epilepsy is less than in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and it’s expected to decline further over the next several years.

    The government invests $140-160 million in epilepsy research, but per patient, contributes less to epilepsy than it does to other major neurological disorders.

    Finally, at less than $10 million, non-profit foundations contribute less than $4 per patient to epilepsy research. Parkinson’s, by contrast, receives $40-50 per patient from nonprofits.

    Without research there can be no breakthroughs, not to mention a cure. Yet per researcher, funding for epilepsy lags behind average funding for all diseases by nearly 50%.

    Yet up to 50,000 Americans die each year from seizures and related causes, including drownings and other accidents.

    And one in 10 people will suffer a seizure in their lifetimes.

    By some estimates, the mortality rate for people with epilepsy is two to three times higher — and the risk of sudden death is 24 times greater — than that of the general population.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2014 @ 3:23 PM

    • Exactly my point, Phylis,
      The powers of the day have their own priorities “POLITICAL AMBITIONS & ASPIRATIONS” to conquer their citizens than combating medical scrooge disabling their own citizens.


      Comment by Gerrie — May 28, 2014 @ 11:43 PM

  4. $$$$$$$!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 29, 2014 @ 12:46 PM

  5. my 27 year old son just had another seizure and I come down and read this and it just makes me cry…. why can’t we get help. if it happened to their children they would do something…


    Comment by Buddy Dowlen — June 7, 2014 @ 10:21 PM

    • Sad but true Buddy. But there’s so much hope for the future. If you’re optimistic.

      Case in point: “28 New Medicines In Development”


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2014 @ 10:57 PM

    • Buddy,,,
      STAY STRONG,,, Your son is going to need your courage, strength, guidance & support more than he ever did before.
      Have faith, you can hold your ground & fight back to win this war, with your son.
      TRUST ME,,, Millions of us have been in your shoes before, feeling DESPERATELY helpless, until we have come to accept the medical ordeal & learned how to live with Epilepsy

      Buddy. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.


      Comment by Ghebre — June 8, 2014 @ 1:11 AM

  6. Gerrie, have I told you lately how wonderful I think you are?

    Why the name change?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 8, 2014 @ 10:43 AM

  7. Phylis, why on earth (or any other place) would my neurologist have had a residency in “neurology and psychiatry” Such a wording would force the layperson to presume that epilepsy, and other disorders of brain chemicals, are interlinked. Screw them! I am going to watch a puppy movie (Marley and Me) which usually calms my ass down!


    Comment by meesher — June 8, 2014 @ 1:59 PM

    • Actually, Michele, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea. To treat the mind clinically and then psychologically seems like a great idea.

      It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it’s more of an effort to better understand the person as a whole.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 8, 2014 @ 11:37 PM

      • OK, Phylis, I see what you mean, but again, I submit that psychiatry and psychology are separate things: one can get a medical degree in 4 years of college+4 years of medical school+2 years of residency or 1 year of internship. This degree entitles a psychiatrist (an M.D.) to prescribe medications; and then there is the degree in psychology which takes 4 years of college only. And such a degree may take 2 more years of PhD work. Then that degree allows the owner of the degree to sell “talk” therapy and other useless (IMHO) that are worthless to epileptics. We need medications.So we are back to either neurologists or psychiatrists. When my neuro let it slip (in a writing of his) that he thought I was bi-polar, but had failed miserably to prescribe ANY medications FOR that disease, I found HIM useless and sought out a psychiatrist I know. That man, the psychiatrist, told me that he did not think I was bi-polar at all, and told me that I did not need any meds for that condition, but allowed that if I was having seizures I ceratinly needed a med for the seizures, and prescribed the Zonisamide for me, which made the seizures history for me, since 6 months ago. Last December 5th, a day that will live in infamy—mine.I also contacted a psychiatrist I saw right after my head injury which made me speedy, afraid, a damn, oh, agoraphobe, who needed some Xanax to lubricate me into public. I did not take more than 2 mg a day, but I am aware that it is addictive for some.
        Oh, there is another reason I think my present neuro is whacko in this area: he is from India, is in an arranged marriage, and thus is probably afraid of and misunderstands powerful, educated, white American women. Oh my, again, women who are educated are mis-understood, are mal-treated, and, in their own notes, are psychiatrically misunderstood. I think it is very important that each of us use the power of the signature to get his or her own medical records. Do not summon them, do not ask for them in a writing. Go to where they are, sign the forms and watch as they open the file and make copies. I live near the hospital where I was held captive, and near his office. It was how I got the records that have been so empowering for me. I also found out that I was once limited to a floor that was a psychiatric ward!!!. I never knew that: Klonipin. I will never again take a Klonipin or Kloni anything med again.Watch what they hand you: take notes: the color of the tablet has to remain the same. I know we cannot take a Desk Reference for meds into the ambulance with us, but we surely can get our laptops, Kindle Fire HDs delivered. Last time, the hub delivered the Kindle Fire HD to me and I had it up and running in 3 minutes. This was noted by the nursing staff, and I was on the street (in my husband’s car) in 2 hours. Use anything we can to show the hospitals that we are valued, intelligent people. My husband stood around the nursing staff one afternoon, and even the nurses assistants (the women who change the sheets and give you clean underwear) talking endlessly about how “smart” his wife was. It was not all TRUE, but it certainly helped to get me “sprung”. I worry that my health insurance comes into play when trying to get OUT of a hospital. They tell us all that if we are not signed out by the hospital doctors, our health insurances will not pay. Well, that’s just fine with me! If I can walk out, I’m gonna do that, and then let them try to pry juice out of THIS orange.I know I am misusing this phrase, but the other one does not come to me. Love ya, Michele


        Comment by meesher — June 9, 2014 @ 2:00 AM

  8. Michele,

    I DO agree with you about the freedom of full disclosure, self-assement and freedom to judge your own situation…to a point.

    Here’s where I disagree: on the psychiatry and neurology issue.

    I have a fabulous “shrink” whom I’ve had successsful talk therapy with for years. And I am on Effexor, which has done a world of good for my clinical depression.

    My neurologist is the best of the bunch out here and, better yet, he communicates with my psychiatrist on subjects concerning me. For epilepsy, I take Lamictal and Klonopin.

    Together, they literally, saved my life.

    I think it’s (not to over-simplify) a matter of the individuals you end up working with.

    I interviewed three psychiatrists before I made my choice. And when I met Dr. Keller, I know I had hit the jackpot.

    As for my neuro, I’ve know him for many years and he has faithfully followed my progress AND decline for more than 20 years.

    I trust both implicitly. I only wish YOU had that kind of positive experience.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 9, 2014 @ 2:45 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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