Medical Advances

New Treatment Stops Unrelenting Seizures

epilepsy drug molecule

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Drug Treats Prolonged Seizures in Pediatric Cases

Seizures can be dangerous, especially when they don’t respond to medication. Refractory status epilepticus, one form of unresponsive epilepsy, is currently considered a medical emergency with no available treatment. Using a breakthrough investigational medication in its first pediatric clinical application, scientists from Northwestern Medicine led by Mark Wainwright, MD, PhD, have successfully treated a child for this life threatening epilepsy, offering an exciting new treatment.

In a pair of clinical cases at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and UC Davis Children’s Hospital, pediatric patients experiencing continuous seizures after weeks of intensive treatment received emergency allopregnanolone. The investigational drug is thought to positively influence the receptors on nerve cells that show resistance to traditional treatments. The patients were eased off the normal treatment of anesthetics over five days while receiving the experimental medication, approved for these cases by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both children were seizure-free after the new treatment, with no reported adverse side effects.

The success of this new treatment may have breakthrough implications for pediatric patients in intensive care units (ICU). Refractory status epilepticus, commonly known as unrelenting or prolonged seizures, cannot be stopped by any currently FDA-approved medications and each year affect thousands of ICU patients due to conditions including serious epilepsy, infection, stroke, head injury and metabolic disorders. Prolonged seizures can cause brain damage or death; an effective treatment could help counter the high mortality and neurological impairment rates associated with the disease.

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