Epilepsy drug holds promise for MS
And he said that repurposing licensed drugs for other conditions could open the door to more treatment options for people with epilepsy.
Scientists at the Institute of Neurology, University College London have shown that the anti-epileptic drug phenytoin may also prevent nerve damage in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The drug was found to slow the progress of optic neuritis, a symptom of MS that causes nerves carrying information from the eye to the brain to become inflamed and damaged.
Scientists believe it could have a similar protective effect throughout the brain.
Currently there are no neuroprotective drugs available for MS sufferers, whose nerve fibres are attacked by their own immune system.
Professor Ley Sander, medical director at Epilepsy Society welcomed the news. 'This study shows promising results for people with multiple sclerosis which is a very debilitating condition. However, it also holds promise for people with epilepsy.
'Potentially there could be many drugs which are licensed for specific conditions but which may also have untapped potential for epilepsy. Identifying these drugs and moving them quickly into clinical trials could increase the number of medications available to treat people with epilepsy.'
Epilepsy Society's chief executive, Angela Geer said that a key part of the charity's work was to persuade the government to accelerate access to repurposed drugs that are clinically effective, particularly for those with rare epilepsies.
'It can take 12 years and cost £1.15 billion to develop a new drug. which is a task on a leviathan scale by any standards,' she said. 'But the frustrations of accessing drugs outside those licensed for epilepsy are proving to be onerous too.
'In some other European countries, access to repurposed drugs seems to be far more straightforward and immediate, resulting in real change in the lives of patients. In the UK the process is thwarted by the bureaucracy of the NHS which is standing in the way of patients accessing the drugs they need.
'We want the government to action accelerated access to clinically effective drugs that could help to reduce seizure frequency and severity in those with rare epilepsies and optimise the lives not just of them but also of their families, friends and carers.'