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Piracetam relieves symptoms in progressive myoclonus epilepsy: a multicentre, randomised, double blind, crossover study comparing the efficacy and safety of three dosages of oral piracetam with placebo


OBJECTIVE To compare the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of three daily dosage regimens of oral piracetam in patients with progressive myoclonus epilepsy.

METHODS Twenty patients (12 men, eight women), aged 17–43 years, with classical Unverricht-Lundborg disease were enrolled in a multicentre, randomised, double blind trial of crossover design in which the effects of daily doses of 9.6 g, 16.8 g, and 24 g piracetam, given in two divided doses, were compared with placebo. The crossover design was such that patients received placebo and two of the three dosage regimens of piracetam, each for two weeks, for a total treatment period of six weeks and thus without wash out between each treatment phase. The primary outcome measure was a sum score representing the adjusted total of the ratings of six components of a myoclonus rating scale in which stimulus sensitivity, motor impairment, functional disability, handwriting, and global assessments by investigators and patients were scored. Sequential clinical assessments were made by the same neurologist in the same environment at the same time of day.

RESULTS Treatment with 24 g/day piracetam produced significant and clinically relevant improvement in the primary outcome measure of mean sum score (p=0.005) and in the means of its subtests of motor impairment (p=0.02), functional disability (p=0.003), and in global assessments by both investigator (p=0.002) and patient (p=0.01). Significant improvement in functional disability was also found with daily doses of 9.6 g and 16.8 g. The dose-effect relation was linear and significant. More patients showed clinically relevant improvement with the highest dosage and, in individual patients, increasing the dose improved response. Piracetam was well tolerated and adverse effects were few, mild, and transient.

CONCLUSIONS This study provides further evidence that piracetam is an effective and safe medication in patients with Unverricht-Lundborg disease. In addition, it shows that a dose of 24 g is highly beneficial, more effective than lower doses and that a dose-effect relation exists. There is considerable variation in optimal individual dosage.

  • double blind
  • myoclonus
  • piracetam
  • progressive myoclonus epilepsy

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