Epilepsy drug approved by FDA omits side effects

August 10, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

A new epilepsy drug, the first approved in 15 years, promises to control seizures without the harsh side effects common with more traditional treatment.

Felbatol was approved last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent epileptic seizures in people 14 and older, or in the 10 percent of children with epilepsy who have seizures from a condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which are difficult to treat.

But the drug is likely to be used, as many drugs are, for other patients, including younger children or people with mild seizures. Such off-label use is common once a drug has been approved for a particular purpose.

The drug was tested at more than 50 U.S. hospitals for more than six years, including the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

It reduced seizures without the severe side effects, including depression, memory loss and lethargy, that are often caused by other epilepsy drugs.

Some 2.5 million Americans have epilepsy, a chronic brain disorder characterized by seizures. The seizures can cause short muscle jerks, temporary loss of awareness or loss of consciousness. The cause of epilepsy is unknown.

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