Clinical pharmacology and therapeutic use of the new antiepileptic drugs

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Although older generation antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) such as carbamazepine, phenytoin and valproic acid continue to be widely used in the treatment of epilepsy, these drugs have important shortcomings such as a highly variable and nonlinear pharmacokinetics, a narrow therapeutic index, suboptimal response rates, and a propensity to cause significant adverse effects and drug interactions. In an attempt to overcome these problems, a new generation of AEDs has been introduced in the last decade. Compared with older agents, some of these drugs offer appreciable advantages in terms of less variable kinetics and, particularly in the case of gabapentin, levetiracetam and vigabatrin, a lower interaction potential. Lamotrigine, topiramate, zonisamide and felbamate protect against partial seizures and a variety of generalized seizure types, vigabatrin is effective against partial seizures (with or without secondary generalization) and infantile spasms, while the use of oxcarbazepine, tiagabine and gabapentin is mainly resticted to patients with partial epilepsy (and, in the case of oxcarbazepine, also primarily generalized tonic-clonic seizures). Levetiracetam, the latest AED to be introduced, has been found to be effective in partial seizures, but its potentially broader efficacy spectrum remains to be determined in clinical studies. Currently, the main use of new generation AEDs is in the adjunctive therapy of patients refractory to older agents. However, due to advantages in terms of tolerability and ease of use, some of these drugs are increasingly used for first-line management in certain subgroups of patients. Due to serious toxicity risks, felbamate and vigabatrin should be prescribed only in patients refractory to other drugs. In the case of vigabatrin, however, first line use may be justified in infants with spasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-417
Number of pages13
JournalFundamental and Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Drug therapy
  • Epilepsy
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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