FORT WORTH – Texas â?? A new medication is being studied at the UNT Health Science Center in the search for a more effective antiepileptic drug without as many side effects. Researchers are seeking additional medications so patients will have more options to choose from in their therapy.

The health science center is seeking males and females over the age of 12 with incompletely controlled epilepsy on at least one antiepileptic drug already. According to Dr. William McIntosh, chief of neurology at the UNT Health Science Center and the primary investigator in the study, the health science center is one of 80 sites in the United States and Canada seeking a total of 400 patients to enroll in the study. The health science center will seek participants to monitor on the new medication throughout the year.

Researchers hope the use of this study medication will prevent the number of seizures in patients. Most of these antiepileptic medications are not effective until they reach a certain level in the body, and that level has to be maintained. The goal is to keep the blood level high enough to prevent seizures, but not so high that it causes excessive sleepiness or other unpleasant side effects.

Previously over a dozen drugs, the oldest dating back to 1912, have been available for those with epilepsy. The most commonly prescribed drug still used today was developed in the 1950s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1.4 million Americans have epilepsy, with the majority of these Americans under age 45. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that from time to time produces brief disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain. Normal brain function is made possible by millions of tiny electrical charges passing between nerve cells in the brain and to all parts of the body. When someone has epilepsy, this normal pattern may be interrupted by irregular bursts of electrical energy (called epileptic seizures) that are much more intense than usual. They may affect a person’s consciousness, bodily movements or sensations for a short time.

In about seven out of ten people with epilepsy, no cause can be found. Among the rest, the cause may be any one of a number of things that can make a difference in the way the brain works, including head injuries, brain tumors, genetic conditions, problems in development of the brain before birth, and infections like meningitis or encephalitis.

All study-related medication, tests and exams will be provided free of charge. In many cases, volunteers are compensated for their time and travel expenses. Those interested can discuss clinical research participation with their doctor and call the Office of Clinical Trials at (817) 735-0256.

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