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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Gene discovery linked to lack of medication tolerance

16 April, 2003

A gene that may help indicate whether a person with epilepsy will respond to anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) has been discovered, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is estimated that 20-30 per cent of people with epilepsy are unable to have their seizures controlled by medication.

Researchers from University College London studied the DNA of 315 people with epilepsy. Two hundred of them were resistant to AEDs and 115 responded to medication. The results suggested that people with drug-resistant epilepsy were more likely to have a defect in the ABCB1 3435 gene, suggesting a problem with the method by which drugs are transmitted into the brain.

Commenting on the research, Dr Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at New York University Medical Center, said:

"This is very important stuff, although translating it into clinical practice is not going to happen tomorrow. The ability to identify this group of patients means we know not to prescribe those drugs and not to put that patient through five years of med adjustment and failed drugs."