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Clinical research

Phenytoin protects against optical damage in multiple sclerosis

The anticonvulsant drug phenytoin, usually used in epilepsy, can help prevent nerve damage caused by acute optic neuritis (pictured) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to recent research

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Nerve damage caused by acute optic neuritis (pictured) in patients with multiple sclerosis can be prevented with the anticonvulsant phenytoin 

Acute optic neuritis (AON) is a common complication in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and can lead to visual impairment. New research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th annual meeting suggests that the anticonvulsant drug phenytoin, usually used in epilepsy, can help prevent nerve damage caused by AON.

In total, 86 people with AON were randomly assigned to receive phenytoin or placebo. After three months of treatment, retinal nerve fibre layer thickness (RNFL) and macular volumes were significantly higher in people given phenytoin versus placebo, indicating a neuroprotective effect.

“Treatment with phenytoin protects the RNFL and macula from neurodegeneration, raising the possibility that blockade of voltage-gated sodium channels may be neuroprotective in relapses of MS in general,” say the researchers in the conference abstract[1].

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068444

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