FRIDAY, June 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The epilepsy drug valproate appears to ease the symptoms of adults who have a genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which seriously weakens muscles, a small U.S. study finds.
The study included seven SMA patients, ages 17 to 54, who were given a series of strength tests over the course of eight to 15 months of treatment with valproate.
The results showed increases in the patients' strength over the study period.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published the findings this week in the online edition of the journal Neurology.
The weakening of muscles in patients with SMA can lead to difficulty in walking, eating, clearing the air passageways, and other essential functions. Increasing the muscle strength of these patients may help improve their ability to clear their lungs and reduce their risk of pneumonia, a common cause of death, the study authors said.
Weight gain, hair loss and acne were among the side effects caused by the drug.
A larger study is needed in order to fully evaluate valproate as a treatment for adult SMA patients, the researchers said.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association has more about SMA.