[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 27-Mar-2002
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Contact: Meaghan Atkinson
212-601-8438
Porter Novelli

People suffering from epilepsy continue to lack a good quality of life

Sufferers are not seeking alternative treatments

New York – March 27, 2002 – New survey data released today reveals that people with hard to control epilepsy experience a poor quality of life, but that many do not proactively pursue new treatments that could help. The Quality of Life in Epilepsy survey, sponsored by Cyberonics, reveals that people with epilepsy are three times more likely to be unemployed than the national average. Almost half of these patients suffer from depression and believe that epilepsy has reduced their daily activities and their personal and professional goals for the future. Three-quarters of the epilepsy patients surveyed strongly believe that even modest improvements in seizure control would significantly improve their daily lives but only one-third of them regularly ask their doctor if new or alternative treatments are available.

The Balance Between Seizure Control and Number of Medications
Only 25 percent of surveyed patients have been seizure-free for the past year, with the remaining 75 percent experiencing an average of 70 seizures each year.

According to an earlier study by Dr. Patrick Kwan and Dr. Martin J. Brodie, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 36 percent of patients with epilepsy have inadequate control of seizures with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs); resulting in substantial deleterious effects on individual health and quality of life and a heavy burden on society. These patients are considered refractory and are in need of another therapy besides medication to gain seizure control. That study concludes that after two failed drug attempts, the likelihood of another drug succeeding is only four percent.

The new survey on quality of life discovered that 65 percent of people with refractory epilepsy have tried between two and five medications, while an additional one-quarter of patients have tried between six and ten. Moreover, half currently experience side effects associated with their medications and find these side effects extremely frustrating. Managing epilepsy has to be a balance between controlling seizures and the number of medications each person is taking and their side effects.

"While many people with epilepsy gain good control with currently available medications, this study underscores the Epilepsy Foundation's view that people with epilepsy, especially those whose seizures are hard to control, need to have access to current information about all appropriate treatment options," said Eric R. Hargis, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation.

The Ideal Treatment
Three-quarters of the patients surveyed would be very interested in learning about new treatment options and finding ways to reduce the number of medications they take, according to this survey. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of the survey participants would consider changing their current treatment if their doctor told them about a new treatment that might maintain their current level of seizure control without the negative side effects.

“I was 15 when I was first diagnosed with epilepsy and I felt the impact immediately. I began to struggle at school, I couldn’t go with my friends on weekend road trips, I couldn’t stay out late or go to all the dances,” said epilepsy patient, Kristen Peters. “The frustrating thing was that even though I would take my medications every day and cope with their side effects, I still had frequent seizures. The turning point for me was when I received Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy, which helped control my seizures and caused far fewer side effects. I am now studying at college and living the same life as my friends.”

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy – A Real Hope For Improving Quality Of Life
Vagus nerve stimulation therapy (VNS TherapyÔ) is an innovative long-term therapy for central nervous system disorders, which has been demonstrated as safe and effective for people with epilepsy. VNS Therapy is delivered via a small pacemaker-like device, implanted just under the skin in the left chest pocket, which sends mild electrical stimulation to the brain via the left vagus nerve.

VNS Therapy has been proven to decrease or sometimes eliminate seizures and improves quality of life in many patients whose seizures do not respond to medications alone. VNS Therapy has not been reported to cause any of the devastating side effects that can be associated with AEDs, moreover, some VNS Therapy patients have been able to reduce the dosage levels of their AEDs.

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Notes to Editors
The Cyberonics sponsored survey was conducted by the Melior Group and consisted of 700-telephone interviews of people with difficult to treat seizures including 500 interviews among people with epilepsy over the age of 18, and 200 interviews among caregivers of children 12 to 17 who have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Each interview was comprised of a series of questions that dealt with topics such as treatment options, quality of life, the impact of epilepsy and its treatment on work, home and social life, and doctor-patient relationships.

About VNS Therapy
VNS with the Cyberonics NCP® System was approved in 1997 for use as an adjunctive therapy in reducing the frequency of seizures in adults and adolescents over 12 years of age with medically refractory partial onset seizures. In addition, the NCP System is currently approved for epilepsy in all the member countries of the European Union, Canada, and Australia. VNS with the Cyberonics NCP System is also approved for sale in the European Union and in Canada as a depression treatment in patients with treatment-resistant or treatment-intolerant major depressive episodes including unipolar depression and bipolar disorder (manic depression).

Cyberonics, Inc. (Nasdaq: CYBX) was founded in 1987 to help improve the lives of people touched by epilepsy, depression and other chronic disorders that may prove to be treatable with VNS. Cyberonics is headquartered in Houston, Texas, USA, with an office in Belgium. For additional information, please visit www.cyberonics.com.

Contacts:
Meaghan Atkinson, Porter Novelli
(917)449-4389 cell
(212)601-8438 direct
Stacy Johnson, Porter Novelli
(212) 601-8452 direct


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