[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
July 19, 1985

Antietileptics: age-old search for effective therapy continues

JAMA. 1985;254(3):329-333. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360030015001

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Blood of the tortoise. Testicles of the hippopotamus. Feces of the land crocodile. Root of strychnos gathered at the time of the waning of the moon, put into a piece of linen, and hung around the neck. Scrapings from the selenite stone found by night at the waxing of the moon. Filings of iron sharpened on whetstone from Naxos.

What all these substances have in common is that at one time they were all used as drugs to treat epilepsy (Owsei Temkin, The Falling Sickness, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1979). Today carbamazepine, clonazepam, chlorazepate dipotassium, and valproic acid are the latest additions to the modern pharmacologic armamentarium against epilepsy. Together with drugs such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, and primidone, they have greatly relieved seizure frequency for about 85% of the estimated 2.5 million patients with epilepsy in the United States.

"But for the other 15%, the rules don't work," says