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Study into use of hormones to control seizures in women

30 May 2001

Three US medical centres are commencing a study to evaluate the use of the hormone progesterone in the control of seizures for women with epilepsy.

Doctors are investigating the suspected link between a woman's seizure pattern and her menstrual cycle. Previous reports have suggested that the surge of oestrogen during the cycle can promote seizures and many women report the number of seizures experienced increases during this time of the month.

Progesterone is known to inhibit neurons in the brain that may be involved in seizures. In animal studies, progesterone has been shown to reduce abnormal brain waves and reduce the number of seizures, therefore researchers will be giving the women in the study progesterone lozenges to see whether this will reduce the number of seizures.

The three centres, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston and the Cornell Medical Center, New York, will study 450 women over the next 3 years with each woman spending 6 months in the study programme.

For the first three months their seizures and their menstrual cycle will be charted. On day 22 of each cycle they will go into hospital for blood work. The second three months they are given either a placebo or progesterone.

Two-thirds of the women will get the active hormone, and one-third will get the placebo. They take the hormone (or placebo) during the second half of their cycle and continue to come in for blood work as well as to chart their seizures and cycle.

Doctors say that side effects of progesterone can include a mild weight increase, some breast tenderness and fatigue.