Epilepsy: New drug shows promise in reducing seizures

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A man talks with a doctor while others listenShare on Pinterest
People with epilepsy can have a variety of symptoms. The Good Brigade/Getty Images
  • Researchers say a new medication may potentially reduce seizures by more than 50% in people with epilepsy.
  • They reported the drug also eliminated seizures in some study participants.
  • The medication targets focal seizures, which affect a single brain area and occur when nerve cells send out sudden, excessive burst of electrical signals.

People with epilepsy who added a new medication, XEN1101, to their treatment routine had seizures reduced by a third to more than 50%.

That’s according to a study published today in the journal JAMA Neurology, which noted that some people treated with the drug remained seizure-free during the 8-week treatment period.

The study, which was a phase 2B clinical trial, ran from January 2019 until September 2021. It included 325 men and women with epilepsy.

Participants had already tried and stopped an average of 6 drugs that failed to treat their focal seizures. They also had experienced at least four episodes a month despite ongoing treatment.

The participants randomly received either a daily oral capsule of XEN1101 or an inert placebo tablet that looked identical to the actual drug.

The medication targets focal seizures. These are the most common type of seizures and occur when nerve cells in a particular brain region send out sudden, excessive bursts of electrical signals.

Focal seizures, also called partial seizures, affect a single brain area, most commonly the temporal lobe. The difference between a seizure and epilepsy depends on the number of episodes, according to the Health">National Institutes of Health. A seizure is a single episode with a low risk of recurrence. Epilepsy is a condition in which two or more unprovoked seizures occur more than 24 hours apart.

“We always need new seizure medications as many patients with intractable epilepsies often require treatment with more than one seizure medication,” Dr, Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today. “This study with a novel potassium channel opener seems reasonable.”

Therapies currently available do not stop seizures in about one-third of people.

Xenon Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Vancouver, Canada, that develops therapies for neurological disorders, including epilepsy and major depressive disorder, funded the study.

Xenon Pharmaceuticals is the maker of XEN1101.

“Once a drug is in clinical trials, it is almost certain that the study will be done by the sponsor (the pharmaceutical company), who is developing the drug for ultimate [Food and Drug Administration] approval,” said Dr. Jacqueline French, a professor at NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York who was not involved in the study.

“This was true for other recent breakthrough therapies, such as the new therapies for spinal muscular atrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis,” she told Medical News Today. “Therefore, it is not surprising to medical professionals. It is very important for the academic community to work with the sponsors to ensure that the study is done with the highest rigor and the most interpretable results.”

Studies run by pharmaceutical companies can sometimes be problematic.

“I think there are partnerships between academia and industry, and the fact that this was not completely run by a pharmaceutical company and the patients were part of NYU’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center adds legitimacy to the results,” Segil noted. “Studies completely run by pharmaceutical companies are more challenging for me to believe than studies like this one, which are performed at academic centers with funding from pharmaceutical companies.”

The next step, already underway, is to perform another randomized, placebo-controlled trial to confirm the results.

Share this Article