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Miami Children's Takes Part in $17 Million Epilepsy Study Funded by the National Institutes of Health

MIAMI, FL. Miami Children’s Hospital is a key member of a nationwide group of medical centers that have been awarded a $17 million grant from the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke – a division of the National Institutes of Health – for a clinical research study of childhood absence (petit mal) epilepsy.

The grant funds a comparison of the three most commonly used anti-epileptic drugs for absence seizures, which account for 10 to 15 percent of all cases of epilepsy in children. The goal is to determine the best initial medicine for childhood absence epilepsy. The five-year study will enroll 439 children – ages 2 to 13 – at 20 sites throughout the country. Miami Children’s Hospital is one of these sites.

The grant is the largest ever awarded for a clinical research study of pediatric epilepsy, and the clinical trial will be the largest head-to-head comparison of available drugs for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy trial ever conducted, said Michael Duchowny, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at MCH.

In addition to the clinical trial, the grant funds pharmacokinetic and pharmacogenetic research on how these medicines act in children with childhood absence epilepsy. Pharmacokinetics is the study of how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes and excretes drugs. Pharmacogenetics is the study of genetic determinants of the response to drugs.

“We want to identify the factors underlying individual variations. Why do some drugs succeed and others fail in some patients? Why do some have side effects while others do not? And what are the effects on cognition, behavior and learning?” said Dr. Duchowny. “This is the first step toward our goal of making it possible for physicians to predict patient response and tailor childhood epilepsy therapies for individual needs.”