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Oldest Epilepsy Drug Best for Children
Date:3/3/2010

In landmark trial, it beat two newer meds for treating seizures, with fewer side effects

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- A landmark comparison of three drugs widely used against the most common form of childhood epilepsy finds the oldest to be the most effective.

The study of 453 children at 32 U.S. medical centers found that ethosuximide (Zarontin), one of the oldest anti-seizure medications available in the United States, is most effective at controlling what is called absence or "petit mal" epilepsy, with the fewest side effects. Valproic acid (Valproate, Depakote) came second, and the newest drug, lamotrigine (Lamictal), was third, according to a report in the March 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is the first real hard evidence of comparing the three most commonly used medicines, and finds one superior to the other two," said trial leader Dr. Tracy A. Glauser, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

About 1 percent of American children have epilepsy, Glauser said, and 10 percent of those have absence epilepsy, which causes the child to stare blankly into space for periods that may be as brief as five seconds. The bad news from the study, in which the children had frequent electroencephalograms to measure brain activity, is that they also often have problems with attention, Glauser said.

"The conventional wisdom has been that if you control the seizures, that is enough," he said. "We found that about a third of them had attention problems when they started and that they continued. These kids need to have their seizures addressed, but also need further evaluation to have their attention problems addressed."

The study included children aged 2.5 to 13 years, newly diagnosed with epilepsy and free of other problems, such as autism. They were randomly assigned to one of the three drugs. The study measured
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