Dr. Steven Schachter (photo) is Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.
He voices his view and challenges for CAM for the treatment of epilepsy in a recent issue of Current Opinion in Neurology.
Although “some herbal medicines have been shown experimentally to have mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy and promising actions in animal models,” says Dr. Schechter, “There is currently a paucity of credible evidence to support the use of complementary and alternative medical therapies in patients with epilepsy.”
In cases where “herbal medicines and their constituent compounds â€¦ have been shown experimentally to have mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy,” Dr. Schechter challenges, they “should undergo further preclinical evaluation with a view towards clinical development under the new US Food and Drug Administration guidelines.”
“Additional studies of other, nonherbal complementary and alternative medical therapies are also warranted based on anecdotal observations or pilot studies that suggest a favorable risk-benefit ratio.”
The bottom line?
Here’s an example of the current state of CAM for epilepsy.
A survey of 3,100 members of the Epilepsy Foundation of Arizona 5 years ago had an 11% response rate. Half of the people with epilepsy had tried CAM at some time for seizure control. Almost half used them for other reasons.
There was no support for a specific CAM treatment. “People found CAM to be generally beneficial to their health. The most helpful were stress reduction, yoga, and botanicals (herbs). Nonetheless, half of the patients taking botanicals had an increase in their seizures. One third of the patients felt that CAM helped treat their epilepsy better than the AED [antiepilepsy drugs]. However, very few patients considered stopping the AED.”
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.