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Wednesday June 28, 9:30 am Eastern Time

Company Press Release

SOURCE: Epilepsy Foundation

Epilepsy Foundation Cites Dramatic Increase in Use And Scientific Understanding of Epilepsy Diet; Movement Was Launched by TV Movie Set for July 3 Rebroadcast

WASHINGTON, June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Epilepsy Foundation representatives said today there has been a dramatic growth in ketogenic diet therapy for children with epilepsy since First Do No Harm, a made-for-television movie, helped launch a movement to raise awareness of the little known diet three years ago.

The movie, which stars Meryl Streep, is scheduled for rebroadcast by the ABC television network on July 3rd.

The ketogenic diet, a stringent, high-fat, low-carbohydrate regimen, fell into limited use several decades after its introduction in the 1920's. Its resurgence over the past several years is largely due to the efforts of Jim Abrahams, the Hollywood producer and director of First Do No Harm. Abrahams has a child with epilepsy who has done well on the diet.

According to Martha Morrell, MD, chair of the Foundation's national board of directors, ``The ketogenic diet has reemerged as a standard treatment option in major epilepsy treatment centers throughout the country. Many of these centers are also now engaged in related basic and clinical research to better understand how the diet works and determine which patients it is most likely be benefit.'' Dr. Morrell is a professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Columbia Presbyterian Center of New York Hospital.

The ketogenic diet traditionally is prescribed for children whose seizures do not respond to medication. Little is know about its potential effects on adults, although several current scientific studies are showing promising results.

One of these studies, at the Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Philadelphia, involved ten adult patients with intractable seizures. All ten had seizures reduced by 50 percent or more when the diet was added to their medication therapy, although two dropped out because of intolerability. Of the eight that remained, four had a greater than 90 percent decrease in seizure frequency and four had a 50 - 89 percent decrease.

Adults and children may also benefit in the future from work by scientists to develop a new medication that works at least as well as the ketogenic diet. Researchers at Los Angeles Children's Hospital have studied a substance, B- hydroxybutyrate, that is elevated in children on the diet. Their work has demonstrated that the substance reduces susceptibility to seizures in isolated neurons and in animals. Ongoing research with this substance could lead to a medication to replicate the diet's therapeutic effect.

The mechanisms by which the diet inhibits seizures are under investigation at a number of research centers, including an Epilepsy Foundation-funded project at the University of Washington. The goal of the project is to determine precisely how the ketogenic diet may affect the ability of neurons to send and receive signals. Results of the study could also lead to improvements in treatment for the disorder.

The Epilepsy Foundation, with national offices in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and a network of affiliates throughout the nation, is the non-profit volunteer agency devoted to research, education, advocacy, and the provision of services in the community for people with seizure disorders and their families.

SOURCE: Epilepsy Foundation

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