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New cost-effective drug for anti-seizure advances cognitive functions in patients suffering from Alzheimer

Oct, 2021

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The same drug is used for the treatment of epilepsy and people with Alzheimer’s disease showing epileptic activities in their brain

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the world. Early signs are short-term memory problems, a disturbance in solving problems, difficulty finding words, and difficulty with spatial memory. A projected 10-22 % of Alzheimer's patients suffer seizures, with an additional 22-54 % exhibiting silent epilepsy activity. Dr. Keith Vossel, the principal researcher of the trial, previously demonstrated in past studies that individuals who have silent epileptic activity in the brain have a faster decrease in cognitive performance. The researchers opted to test levetiracetam, an anti-seizure drug that was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 and previously worked well in experimental animals of Alzheimer's disease.

Among the individuals assessed for the research, 34 were qualified to join, with around 40% exhibiting epileptic activity and the others having none. These participants were subsequently separated into two groups, with one getting a placebo over four weeks, then by four weeks of no medication and then a 125 mg dosage of levetiracetam two times a day for four weeks. The other group received identical treatments but in the opposite sequence. Due to the crossover design, the intervention could be evaluated on all participants while neither the patients nor the researchers knew if the patient was consuming the medication every given week.

During the trial, the researchers assessed the patients' problem-solving, reasoning, memory, and navigation capabilities. The patients consuming levetiracetam exhibited signs of improvement in cognitive activities, but when the patients were divided into those with silent epileptic activity from those without, the patients with silent epileptic activity displayed a significant response from the drug.

Participants in the research were already consuming U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved Alzheimer's medicines, and the results show that levetiracetam increases cognitive function more effectively than existing therapies.  Future research is needed and see whether using the medication long-term can help reduce disease development.

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