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NEWSWEEK Cover: The Mystery of Epilepsy

Why We Must Find a Cure for Epilepsy

The Toll of Epilepsy Has Been Overlooked - and the Research Underfunded -For Too Long

NEW YORK, April 12 /PRNewswire/ -- "Put harshly, we need more of a cancerlike sensibility around epilepsy," Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham writes in the April 20 cover, "The Mystery of Epilepsy" (on newsstands Monday, April 13). "We cannot usually see our friends' cancer, but we do not hesitate to invest the search for a cure for different cancers with the utmost cultural and political importance. We must now do the same with epilepsy." Meacham writes that the toll of epilepsy has been overlooked -- and the research underfunded -- for too long. Public and private funding for research lag far behind other neurological afflictions. "It is time to remedy that gap, and to raise epilepsy to the front ranks of public and medical concern," he writes.

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"Epilepsy in America is as common as breast cancer, and takes as many lives," Meacham writes. A mysterious and widely misunderstood affliction, epilepsy is a disorder in which the brain produces sudden bursts of electrical energy that can interfere with a person's consciousness, movements or sensations. 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. Yet epilepsy still receives too little attention, either from the medical community or the public at large. "One reason is that advances in drug treatments have created the popular impression that epilepsy is now an essentially manageable condition," Meacham writes. "Most people with epilepsy are not in a constant state of seizure -- they are, rather, in perpetual but quiet danger -- their condition can appear less serious than it truly is. It is all too human, but all too true, that a problem, including the problem of a serious medical affliction, stays out of mind when it is out of sight."

Also in the cover package, Senior Editor Jerry Adler and Contributor Eliza Gray profile a doctor on the front lines of the epilepsy wars, Orrin Devinsky of New York University. Devinsky tries to find the right combinations of drugs to help his patients. Adler and Gray write, "There are, at this time, only a few ways to treat epilepsy, and applying them is still an art as much as it is a science. What works for one patient often has no benefit for another with identical symptoms."

Susan Axelrod, who is married to David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser, and is a founding board member and president of CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, contributes an essay on her family's experience with epilepsy -- and what it has led her to believe must be done. The Axelrods' daughter, Lauren, suffered her first seizure when she was just 7 months old. "Epilepsy entered our lives more than 25 years ago, and yet, far too often, I have no confidence that outcomes today will be any better than they were for Lauren," she writes.

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