Objective: The therapeutic effects of 4-aminopyridine (4AP) were investigated in a randomized, double-blind, crossover trial in 10 subjects with familial episodic ataxia with nystagmus.
Methods: After randomization, placebo or 4AP (5 mg 3 times daily) was administered for 2 3-month-long treatment periods separated by a 1-month-long washout period. The primary outcome measure was the number of ataxia attacks per month; the secondary outcome measures were the attack duration and patient-reported quality of life (Vestibular Disorders Activities of Daily Living Scale [VDADL]). Nonparametric tests and a random-effects model were used for statistical analysis.
Results: The diagnosis of episodic ataxia type 2 (EA2) was genetically confirmed in 7 subjects. Patients receiving placebo had a median monthly attack frequency of 6.50, whereas patients taking 4AP had a frequency of 1.65 (p = 0.03). Median monthly attack duration decreased from 13.65 hours with placebo to 4.45 hours with 4AP (p = 0.08). The VDADL score decreased from 6.00 to 1.50 (p = 0.02). 4AP was well-tolerated.
Conclusions: This controlled trial on EA2 and familial episodic ataxia with nystagmus demonstrated that 4AP decreases attack frequency and improves quality of life.
Level of evidence: This crossover study provides Class II evidence that 4AP decreases attack frequency and improves the patient-reported quality of life in patients with episodic ataxia and related familial ataxias.