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Epilepsy Drug Helps Multiple Sclerosis

Keppra Relieves Spasms, Is Safe and Tolerable
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WebMD Health News

Dec. 16, 2003 -- Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) have a new option to relieve spasms. The drug Keppra, which controls epileptic seizures, looks like a promising treatment with generally mild side effects.

It's more evidence that epilepsy medications help control what doctors call phasic spasticity -- spasms and cramps -- that plague people with multiple sclerosis. This spasticity can make walking difficult and cause falls, and it makes everyday life tiring. The spasms and cramps are also painful and don't quit at night, so sleep is interrupted.

A few medications have been used, over the years, to tame these painful spasms. Though the medications work, patients often feel drugged or weak, affecting mental function, writes lead researcher Kathleen Hawker, MD, with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In recent years, researchers have found that newer medications used to control epileptic seizures also work with multiple sclerosis spasms, she explains. Her study looks at the effectiveness of Keppra, one of these newer antiepileptic drugs.

Doctors believe that Keppra works by dampening specific nerve activity in the brain, explains Hawker. Like similar drugs, Keppra has been shown to be well tolerated and has few side effects, most of them mild. In fact, it seems to boost the patient's mental functions, like memory and thought clarity.

This is important since mental function declines in many MS patients, the result of taking a multitude of medications.

Hawker and her colleagues reviewed medical records for 11 patients, all diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Half the patients took only Keppra for their spasms; the others got a combination of other antispasm drugs.

All patients taking Keppra had significant reduction in spasms, she reports. Three patients also had relief from pain -- which is similar to another small study of Keppra in people with pain from nerve damage, writes Hawker.

As in other studies of Keppra, there were a few mild side effects and no drug interaction problems, she adds.

Keppra was "effective as well as safe" in controlling multiple sclerosis-related spasms, she writes.

SOURCE: Hawker, K. Archives of Neurology, December 2003; vol 60: pp 1772-1774.

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