Feb. 13, 2004 -- A drug used to treat epilepsy may have the unexpected side effect of improving the appearance of scars, a small study shows.
New research shows that the drug Topamax, which is currently FDA approved for use as an antiseizure medication for people with epilepsy, helped lessen the discoloration and improve the cosmetic appearance of scars.
Researchers say that if further studies confirm these findings, the drug may become the first pill to be used in the treatment of scars.
"It's interesting to think that a compound that helps calm seizures might have some completely different effect on the body," says researcher Nathan Shapira, MD, assistant professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, in a news release. "The age of the scars, characteristics like color and height of the scars, and the failure of other types of previous treatments in these patients all argue for the potential of this compound. A scar changing by itself is not likely."
Topamax Improves Appearance of Scars
The study, published in the Dermatology Online Journal, looked at the safety and effectiveness of low doses of Topamax in improving the appearance of scars in 10 adults with scars that were present for at least two years.
Initially, the participants, who had discolored or raised scars, were given 15 milligrams of the drug daily for one month. If the patient experienced no or minimal improvement, researchers increased dosage to 30 milligrams per day. That's about one-fifth of the standard dosage usually used to treat people with epilepsy.
After three months of treatment with Topamax, researchers evaluated the appearance of the scars based on a standardize scale. They found two patients had "very much improved," four were "much improved," and four were "minimally improved."
In addition two independent reviewers assessed the appearance of the scars by blindly arranging before and after photographs of the participants' scars. One reviewer correctly identified the before and after photos for all participants and the other correctly identified nine out of 10 of the photos.
Side effects of the treatment were generally mild and included language problems, such as word-finding difficulty, and sleep disturbances.
Experts say it's too soon to say that Tomapax is an effective treatment for scars, but the results do merit further investigation.
"I hope the publication of these findings spurs an independent evaluation," said Arthur Huntley, MD, a dermatology professor at the University of California, Davis and publisher of Dermatology Online Journal in a news release. "Scars do improve with time, but the findings presented by Shapira were much better than would be expected. I hope his results can be verified by others."