Epilepsy :: Keppra epilepsy drug effective as single therapy

Treatment with low doses of levetiracetam, the active ingredient in the drug Keppra, appears to be effective by itself for controlling newly diagnosed epilepsy, new research indicates.

For the multi-center, double-blind study, researchers assigned nearly 600 adults who had at least two seizures in the previous year to the drug levetiracetam or to controlled-release carbamazepine, a common epilepsy treatment. While levetiracetam is currently used as an add-on therapy by epilepsy patients, this is the first time its effectiveness as a single therapy has been tested through a clinical trial that provided class 1 evidence of efficacy as defined by the International League Against Epilepsy.

The study found 73 percent of people taking levetiracetam and 72.8 percent of people receiving controlled-release carbamazepine remained seizure free for at least six months.

“Both drugs produced equivalent seizure freedom rates in newly diagnosed epilepsy. Levetiracetam helps fill a need for safe and well-tolerated, easy-to-use epilepsy drugs, particularly because more than 30 percent of patients do not achieve seizure control with existing treatments,” said study author Martin Brodie, MD, with the Western Infirmary Epilepsy Unit in Glasgow, Scotland.

Of those remaining seizure free for six months, the study also found 80.1 percent of those taking levetiracetam and 85.4 percent of those taking carbamazepine did so at the lowest dose level.

“This trial confirms previous uncontrolled observations that most people with epilepsy will respond to their first epilepsy drug at low dosage,” said Brodie.

Researchers say 14.4 percent of people taking levetiracetam withdrew from the study because of side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness, while 19.2 percent of people taking carbamazepine withdrew from the study with rash being the most common side effect.

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