Epilepsy Drug May Protect Against Optic Neuritis in Multiple Sclerosis

MARCH 04, 2016
Rachel Lutz
Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients may be able to protect nerve damage using an epilepsy drug, according to a report published in the journal Lancet Neurology. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology 67th Annual Meeting.
Researchers from the University College London Institute of Neurology observed 86 patients in order to establish whether sodium channel inhibition with phenytoin is neuroprotective in patients with optic neuritis. The patients were aged 18 to 60 years, presenting within two weeks of onset, and were assigned to receive oral phenytoin (maintenance dose 4 mg/ kg per day if randomized before or on July 16, 2013, and 6 mg/ kg per day if randomized on or after July 17, 2013) or placebo for 3 months. The patients were examined based on time from onset, study location, previous MS diagnosis, use of disease modifying treatment, and use of corticosteroids for optic neuritis.
Phenytoin, an anticonvulsant drug, had on average about 30 percent less damage to nerve fiber layer compared to the placebo patients. The study authors explained that in the inflamed areas, the axons of nerve cells were flooded with sodium, causing a calcium buildup; this caused cell death. The researchers believe that if sodium entry into the cell can be blocked, there would be a away to prevent this cell death.

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