Old drug may be first choice for childhood petit mal epilepsy | Science News



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Old drug may be first choice for childhood petit mal epilepsy

Effectiveness and modest side effects tilt comparison toward ethosuximide

4:43pm, March 3, 2010

In a three-way test, a 50-year-old drug has edged out two newer ones for treatment of a kind of epilepsy that causes children to gaze off into space.

The new study provides much-needed data for doctors, since all three medications have been used for years without being compared against one another in a controlled trial. The drug that came out on top, ethosuximide, gave the best balance of effectiveness and side effects, researchers report in the March 4 New England Journal of Medicine.

In the aptly named childhood absence epilepsy, or petit mal epilepsy, a child stops in the middle of an activity and stares blankly for 15 seconds or longer. “You can’t snap them out of it,” says study coauthor Tracy Glauser, a pediatric neurologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. ”The kid is just like a statue.” Although appearing frozen, such a child is undergoing “an electric

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