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Chronic Cough Responds to Epilepsy Drug, Study Finds
Date:8/28/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A drug commonly used to control epileptic seizures and pain, gabapentin, also appears to ease hard-to-treat chronic coughs, a new study says.

Chronic cough affects 11 percent to 16 percent of the population, the researchers report. The exact cause is unknown, but it might relate to a malfunction in a part of the brain that causes coughing. Gabapentin works by suppressing that "cough center," they said.

"It is effective and well-tolerated, and may provide significant relief and respite from such a physically and psychologically disabling condition," said lead researcher Nicole Ryan, a clinical research scientist at the University of Newcastle in Australia. "Gabapentin is a real treatment option for people with refractory chronic cough, especially for those with features of central sensitization."

People with this kind of cough feel the need to cough when there is no cough stimulus present. It's thought that neurons in the central nervous system fire off unnecessarily.

The report is published online Aug. 28 in The Lancet.

For the study, Ryan's team evaluated 52 people with chronic cough that had not responded to other treatments to. All had had their cough two months or longer and were randomly assigned to take gabapentin or placebo.

Over 10 weeks, the researchers measured the effect of treatment using a questionnaire that scores the physical, social and psychological impact of the cough. They also assessed the frequency and severity of the cough.

People taking gabapentin had a significant improvement in quality of life, cough severity and frequency of cough compared with those taking placebo, Ryan's group found.

After eight weeks, nearly three-quarters of people taking gabapentin reported improved cough scores, compared with 46 percent of those taking placebo.

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