The Glendale Fire Department is gearing up to start a treatment study that is expected to affect how seizure patients across the Valley are treated.
The department is teaming up with the University of Arizona this summer to study which medicines - and which method of delivering them - are most effective in patients who have prolonged seizures.
Here is how it works:
Glendale paramedics will administer the medication if the patient is still in seizure when they arrive.
Each patient will receive two types of medicine: One will be administered intravenously - in the vein - and one will be administered intramuscular - in the muscle.
In each case, one method will deliver an active medication and one method will deliver a placebo.
Paramedics will not know which medicine is active and which is a placebo, so the two medications will be administered simultaneously.
Patient is no 'lab rat'
A patient will always receive medication, though, in one form or the other, Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick said.
"You're not a lab rat," he said. "That's not what this is."
The medicine that will be used is different from the medication paramedics currently use in the Valley to treat seizures on the scene, but the new medications are considered at least as effective as the current one.
The new medications are used as the standard in other cities, UA medical-research officials said.
The current medication for patients with a persistent seizure is administered intravenously.
Glendale paramedics respond to about 600 seizure calls per year.
Patients treated by Glendale paramedics will be included in the study even if they are in neighboring cities. However, Glendale patients will not be a part of the study if they are treated by paramedics from other cities.
Glendale paramedics have begun training for the study, which could start as early as mid-June and will last for about two years.
Because people suffering seizures cannot give consent to be a part of the study at the time of the emergency, those who want to opt out must do so in advance.
Patients who do not opt out ahead of time automatically will be a part of the study.
Once the seizure has stopped and they get to a hospital, an official will explain the study to them. At that time, patients can choose whether to allow their medical data to be collected and studied.
"This is a good thing," Burdick said. "It's a very positive thing for our community. Partnerships (like these) are the way we enhance services."
The study won't have any direct costs for the city, Burdick said.
Part of nationwide study
The work will help determine a new standard for the way seizure patients across the state and the country receive emergency care.
Glendale is one of 17 sites across the country conducting the study, called RAMPART, an acronym for Rapid Anticonvulsant Medication Prior to Arrival Trial.
Other sites include areas near San Francisco, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Atlanta.
The study is looking mostly at which treatment method - intravenous or the intramuscular - is more effective or whether they are equally effective.
2nd focus: Temperatures
A secondary part of the study will focus on how temperatures affect the medications.
But UA officials stressed that the medications will not be rendered ineffective by high summer temperatures.
The medicine's temperature will be monitored continuously, and the medicine will be replaced regularly.
If for any reason the study's medications don't work, paramedics immediately will administer the previously used medicine, officials said.
"If I were to have a seizure right now, I would hope they would use this (method)," Burdick said.
Residents seeking more information or who wish to opt out of the study may call 602-827-2140.