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Home » Neurology » What you need to know about drug-resistant epilepsy

Epilepsy is a devastating disease which causes recurrent and often frequent seizures. Treatments are available, but even here there are challenges if a patient’s condition does not respond to medication.

Epilepsy is a serious and debilitating neurological disease. It’s also a frightening one, because it can result in frequent seizures which can cause loss of body control and/or consciousness in patients. Anyone whose seizures are poorly controlled faces an increased risk or danger from accidents, or even death.

It’s the thought of losing control unpredictably which makes epilepsy so alarming. Where might you be and what might you be doing when a seizure occurs? Crossing a road? Driving? Patients have to face this kind of worry on a day-to-day basis. Plus, many fear social stigmatisation if they have a seizure in public.

How epilepsy impacts the lives of patients

Epilepsy disrupts the normal balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain, and it’s this which causes seizures. It can start at any age and is usually lifelong and, shockingly, there are more people with the disease than you might think and it’s thought to affect around six million Europeans.1

“This is a condition which can have a significantly negative impact on the lives of patients and their care-givers,” says Mark Altmeyer, CEO of Arvelle Therapeutics International, a biopharmaceutical company focused on bringing innovative treatments to patients suffering from central nervous system disorders. “Because the seizures are so unpredictable, they can disrupt a patient’s ability to drive, work, or live a ‘normal’ life. As it carries a high risk of mortality, its effects cannot be underestimated.”

There is still a high unmet need for patients with drug-resistant focal onset seizures.

A number of anti-seizure medications are available and work effectively for many patients. But even here there are challenges because they don’t work for everybody, notes Ilise Lombardo MD, CMO of Arvelle.

“Unfortunately, between 30% of patients2 don’t respond to current medications,” she says. “We have to do more to find solutions that can help patients with the drug-resistant form of the disease.”

Reducing seizure severity and becoming seizure-free

So, what can drug-resistant epilepsy patients do to try to help their condition? There are actions they can take such as changing their diet and avoiding environmental triggers; but these may not have significant impact. At this point, invasive options, such as surgery, may be a possibility. However, not all patients will be suitable for this type of intervention.

“I believe the goal for any patient with epilepsy — and particularly those who are treatment-resistant — is to reduce their seizure severity,” says Lombardo. “And, ultimately, their goal is to be seizure-free for an extended period of time which will enhance their quality of life. Any innovative medications to help patients get to that point will be welcomed as a big advance.”

Arvelle is focused on finding innovative solutions so that patients with unmet needs are better able to manage their disease.

The power of partnerships

Why a joined-up approach is the best way to achieve better outcomes for people with epilepsy (PWE).

If key stakeholders in the epilepsy field work in partnership, they can achieve great things for patients, says Stuart Mulheron, General Manager of Arvelle.

“A partnership doesn’t have to be a major agreement,” he stresses. “It can be as simple as working locally with clinicians, nurse teams and pharmacists; or, on a larger scale, with patient and professional associations. By working collectively, everyone in the partnership has a chance to make a positive impact on epilepsy awareness, and highlight the challenges faced by patients, such as stigma and exclusion whilst working together on practical solutions to improve patient outcomes.”

“As a young company, we’re in the process of developing relationships with different stakeholders in the epilepsy field,” says Mulheron. “After all, we all want the same thing: to make patients’ lives better.”

1. Baulac M, de Boer H, Elger C, et al. Epilepsia. 2015;56(11):1687-1695
2. Chen Z, Brodie MJ, Liew D, Kwan P. JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(3):279-286;

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