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FDA Approves New Drug for Severe Epilepsy

FRIDAY, Nov. 21 -- A new drug called Banzel (rufinamide) has been approved as a supplementary treatment for a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday. The approval was based on results of a four-month clinical trial that included patients ages 4 to 30. Compared to patients who took a placebo, those who took the drug had 41 percent fewer tonic plus atonic seizures and 20 percent fewer seizures of any type, the agency said in a news release. Common side effects included headache, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, double vision, nausea, vomiting, and problems walking. As with all other antiepileptic drugs, Banzel will carry a warning that it may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. All patients who take Banzel must be given a patient medication guide that describes the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors associated with this class of drugs, the FDA said. Banzel, manufactured by Eisai Medic ...

Genetic Trait Linked to Alcoholism

THURSDAY, Nov. 20 -- Variations in the genetic makeup of alcoholics may affect how much they drink, a new study suggests. And the key might be the brain's control of serotonin, a mood-influencing neurological chemical. The research could potentially help doctors understand who might be at highest risk of becoming an alcoholic, and then treat that person, said study co-author Ming D. Li, head of neurobiology at the University of Virginia. Li added that the research is unique, because it shows that a single gene variation is connected to a kind of behavior -- alcoholism. The genetic blueprint that people inherit from their parents accounts for an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of a person's risk of becoming alcoholic, said Dr. Robert Philibert, director of the Laboratory of Psychiatric Genetics at the University of Iowa. The interplay between genetic makeup and environmental factors is responsible for the rest of the risk, said Philibert, who's familiar with the new st ...

Growth Hormone Boost May Not Slow Alzheimer's

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19 -- A compound that boosts growth hormone levels in Alzheimer's patients may not slow the disease, new research suggests. The study, funded by drug giant Merck, was spurred by promising animal research that had suggested that the compound, called MK-677, might help curb Alzheimer's effect on the brain. However, "the study suggests that targeting this hormone system may not be an effective approach at slowing the rate of Alzheimer's disease progression," said study author Dr. J.J. Sevigny, associate director of clinical neuroscience at Merck Research Laboratories in North Wales, Pa. His team reported its finding in the Nov. 18 issue of Neurology. "In a similar vein, the study challenges a commonly held theory that hormones may attack beta-amyloid plaque in the brain," Sevigny added. "That was the premise of this research: that by giving this medication we'd be able to influence the beta-amyloid in the brain. And we didn't receive this result in this study." ...