Epilepsy Drug Helps Multiple Sclerosis
Keppra Relieves Spasms, Is Safe and Tolerable
By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
on Tuesday, December 16, 2003
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.
When a person suffers a spinal cord injury the normal flow of nerve signals below the level of injury is interrupted and those signals may not reach the reflex centre of the brain. Because the body's reflex centres are unable to work together to moderate the body's response to signals, the reflex centres in the spinal cord attempt to moderate the response. Because the spinal cord is not as efficient as the brain, the signals that are sent back to the site of the sensation are often over exaggerated. This overactive muscle response is also known as spasticity.
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