Dr. Robert Bass, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, which oversees the state's paramedics, said that patients in this study and future ones still receive the accepted treatment at the same time they help with the research that may benefit them.
Officials at the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, which helped fund the study, also learned that they may be able to manage large numbers of seizures caused by chemical attacks with intramuscular shots.
Bass believes the thigh shots may have come out ahead because paramedics needed more time to administer the drugs intravenously. But the findings are probably enough to persuade officials to switch to the method.
That won't be until 2013, though. The next set of protocols, which go into effect in July, has already been vetted and written.
"It's one study, but it's a good study," Bass said. "I think this will have influence. … I think most paramedics would prefer the method."
Some paramedics around the country have already been using shots to the thigh, particularly if they can't get IV access, said Dr. Alan Ettinger, a member of the board of the Epilepsy Foundation who was not involved in the study. He said this will "give them confidence in the practice."
More paramedics, and even emergency room doctors, are likely to switch, said Ettinger, who is also the epilepsy director at Neurological Surgery PC, a private neurosurgery practice in Long Island, N.Y.
He said timely administration of drugs can make a big difference in preserving brain function and life. But unlike stroke victims who need timely clog-busting medications for effective treatment, the window for those having a seizure never closes.
And while sufferers would benefit from this study, and eventually a pen in their pockets, he also advocated for more public understanding of the disorder. Regular treatment controls seizures for most people with epilepsy, defined as those who have had two or more seizures, he said.
"Even if a patient has seizures, most stop on their own and there is no need for an employer or anyone to administer emergency therapy," Ettinger said. "And the good news is most don't have prolonged seizures, and when they do, we have effective treatments."
Epilepsy sufferer Megan Elphage was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of the story. The Sun regrets the error.