Scientists awarded £2m for epilepsy treatment trial


The University of Liverpool’s Epilepsy Research Group has received £2 million from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for a clinical trial to assess new treatments for epilepsy.

The research, supported by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme, follows a previous study that compared the clinical and cost effectiveness of standard and new medications for epilepsy. The new programme, called SANAD II, aims to recruit more than 1,500 patients aged five years or over from across the UK and will assess whether other new drugs should become first-line treatments.

Research has shown that two new drugs, called levetiracetam and zonisamide, are effective against epilepsy in the short term, but the long-term impact of these drugs, and how they compare with standard treatments, still needs to be understood. As part of the new trial, people with newly diagnosed epilepsy will start treatment with a new or a standard drug. Their progress will be monitored for up to five years to assess which treatment policy is the most effective and gives best value for money for the health service.

Professor Tony Marson, Head of the Liverpool Epilepsy Research Group at the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, said: “Epilepsy is a complex condition with many different causes. The ultimate goal of treatment is to maximise quality of life by eliminating seizures at drug doses that do not cause side effects. Many patients are in the unfortunate position of continuing with treatment despite side-effects, such as tiredness and poor concentration, in order to prevent the more serious impacts of seizures. We want to ensure that patients do not have to make this compromise with their health.

“It is essential that we continue to provide evidence about which drugs are most effective and safe for the patient, as well as identify those that are good value for the NHS.”

The Liverpool Epilepsy Research Group has benefitted from approximately £3 million of research funding in the past 12 months. The team have undertaken clinical and health service research, which has contributed to the NICE epilepsy guidelines and informed treatment policy worldwide.

The new trial, also supported by the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, will be run through the University’s Clinical Trials Research Centre. It will also run in collaboration with the Wales Epilepsy Research Network, the UK Epilepsy Research Network, headed by Professor Marson, and the NIHR Medicines for Children Research Network, coordinated from the University. It will begin patient recruitment in June this year.

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