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  Comparative Effectiveness Study Helps Doctors Determine Which Drug Works Best for Children with a Common Form of Epilepsy
March 4, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC -- A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine used comparative effectiveness to pinpoint which commonly prescribed anti-seizure medications work best - with fewer side effects - for children with childhood absence epilepsy, also known as petit mal epilepsy. This is the first time researchers have used comparative effectiveness to judge which seizure medication may work best in childhood absence epilepsy.

The researchers found that, where effective at all, the oldest and most well-known treatment, ethosuximide, provided the best-performing combination of seizure control and fewer side effects on attention when used in the first 16-20 weeks of treatment.

As part of the Childhood Absence Epilepsy Study Group, Children’s National Medical Center’s Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program was one of 32 sites around the country to participate in the study, and statistician and researcher Avital Cnaan, PhD, director of the Multi-Center Studies Section of the Center for Clinical and Community Research at Children’s National, served as a second author. The study was led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. It is the largest pediatric epilepsy clinical trial ever funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), of the National Institutes of Health.

Approximately 10 to 17 percent of the 45,000 new cases of children under 15 who develop epilepsy are classified as having childhood absence. This form of epilepsy involves seizures that cause a sudden loss of awareness as children stop activities and stare blankly into space for 10-30 seconds, sometimes dozens or hundreds of times per day.

Related links: Contact: Jennifer Leischer/Emily Dammeyer at 202-476-4500.

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Children’s National Medical Center, located in Washington, DC, is a leader in the development of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury. Children’s has been serving the nation’s children for more than 135 years. Children’s National is consistently ranked among the best pediatric hospitals by U.S.News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group. For more information, visit Children’s Research Institute, the academic arm of Children’s National Medical Center, encompasses the translational, clinical, and community research efforts of the institution. Learn more about Children’s Research Institute at