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Methods and Findings
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Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 2004, 26(7): 547
ISSN 0379-0355
Copyright 2004 Clarivate
CCC: 0379-0355
DOI: 10.1358/mf.2004.26.7.863737
Pharmacology of catamenial epilepsy
Reddy, D.S.
Catamenial epilepsy is a menstrual cycle-related seizure disorder characterized by an increase in seizures at the time of menstruation. Catamenial epilepsy affects up to 70% of women with epilepsy. Catamenial seizures are common among women with focal or generalized epilepsy, which affects an estimated 1 million women in the United States. Presently, there is no specific, FDA-approved drug treatment for catamenial epilepsy. Despite the increased use of wide-ranging antiepileptic and hormonal drugs, catamenial seizures are often refractory to many treatments. Recent studies have provided an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of catamenial epilepsy. Cyclical changes of ovarian hormones estrogens and progesterone are now widely believed to be essential for the genesis of catamenial seizures. Generally, progesterone has antiseizure effects, while estrogens facilitate seizure susceptibility. The progesterone metabolite allopregnanolone has been identified as a key endogenous neurosteroid with powerful antiseizure activity. Allopregnanolone is a potent, positive allosteric modulator of GABAA receptors. Progesterone and allopregnanolone exposure and withdrawal affects GABAA receptor plasticity. In animal models, withdrawal from chronic progesterone and, consequently, of allopregnanolone levels in brain, has been shown to increase seizure susceptibility. Natural progesterone therapy is proven to be effective in women with epilepsy. Consequently, synthetic neurosteroids that are devoid of hormonal side effects represent a novel class of antiepileptic drugs for women with catamenial epilepsy. Our studies suggest that ganaxolone, a GABAA receptor-modulating synthetic neuroactive steroid, is a particularly promising treatment for catamenial epilepsy. Future studies are clearly warranted to determine the molecular pathophysiology and an effective treatment of catamenial epilepsy.

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