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Drug could slow ALS muscle weakening

BALTIMORE, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A drug used to treat symptoms of epilepsy could slow muscle weakening in patients with Lou Gehrig's disease, scientists in Baltimore said.

In a clinical trial on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients, the drug talampanel showed the potential to slow the progression of the disease, helping to preserve patients' ability to speak, walk and dress themselves, researchers at Johns Hopkins University said.

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The trial, involving 50 volunteers with ALS, showed talampanel to be safe with limited, and tolerable, side effects, Johns Hopkins neurologist Jeffrey Rothstein wrote in a recent issue of the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Talampanel is a member of the benzodiazepine family, which are anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxing agents that work in the brain and spinal cord.

The promise of talampanel is especially important in ALS because only one other drug, riluzole, exists to treat the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

"Riluzole can extend life only modestly and hasn't been shown to slow ALS symptoms so the need for better therapy is real," Rothstein said.

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