Existing high blood pressure drugs may prevent epilepsy - study

June 20, 2024  19:20

The study, which is published in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggests that drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers may prevent epilepsy in people at the highest risk of developing the condition, including older adults who have had a stroke.

Although epilepsy is often diagnosed in childhood, more than 1% of people over the age of 65 are diagnosed with the recurrent seizures that characterize the condition.

These seizures can temporarily disrupt brain function and cause a range of symptoms. In older adults, the most common risk factor for epilepsy is stroke. About 10% of people who have had a stroke experience seizures within five years.

Vascular disease and chronic high blood pressure, even in the absence of stroke, also increase the risk of developing epilepsy.

 Although anticonvulsant medications can be used to control epilepsy after diagnosis, no medication is approved to prevent epilepsy in people at high risk of developing the disorder.

However, over the past decade, research has shown that a type of blood pressure medication can help reduce seizures because of its ability to suppress inflammation.

For the new study, the researchers turned to a national database that contains information on health care claims from more than 20 million Americans.

They focused their analysis on 2.2 million adults who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, who had been prescribed at least one high blood pressure medication, and who did not previously have epilepsy.

Overall, people who took angiotensin receptor blockers had a 20-30% lower risk of developing epilepsy between 2010 and 2017 compared with people who took other blood pressure medications. This difference persisted even when stroke patients were excluded from the analysis, suggesting that the lower rates of epilepsy were not solely the result of reduced stroke risk.

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