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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Levetiracetam in the treatment of idiopathic generalized epilepsies.

Since its introduction into clinical practice in 1999, levetiracetam, the S enantiomer of piracetam, has rapidly found a secure place, initially in the therapy of partial onset seizures and subsequently in the treatment of idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGE). It has many of the properties of an "ideal" antiepileptic drug, including rapid absorption, linear pharmokinetics, and sparse drug interactions. Tolerabiliy is generally excellent in both adults and children, although tiredness is a common dose-limiting adverse effect. Occasionally the drug can precipitate behavioral abnormalities, especially in patients with learning disability. There is a wide safety margin in overdose. In common with most antiepileptic drugs its mode of action remains uncertain. Levetiracetam binds to a specific site in the brain, influences intracellular calcium currents and reverses negative allosteric modulators of GABA- and glycine-gated currents in vitro. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated in animal models of epilepsy and in clinical trials of partial onset and IGE. Treatment of IGEs may be straightforward, with many patients demonstrating an excellent and robust response to valproate monotherapy. However, there remains a significant minority of patients for whom valproate is unsuitable, including those who experience unacceptable adverse effects (e.g., weight gain or hair loss) and women of childbearing age in whom the teratogenic potential of valproate is unacceptable. Therapeutic response to lamotrigine in this group is often disappointing, and many clinicians now are turning to the choice of levetiracetam. Efficacy in generalized tonic-clonic seizures and myoclonus is usually apparent and some patients experience improvement in typical absences. Experience of combinations of levetiracetam with other antiepileptic drugs is limited in IGE and the responses are largely anecdotal. In our hands, patients with refractory IGEs may respond to combinations of levetiracetam with valproate, lamotrigine, and phenobarbital, and adverse effects when they occur are usually limited to tiredness. Levetiracetam does not interact with the oral contraceptive pill, simplifying treatment in women of childbearing age. Although animal data look encouraging, questions over levetiracetam's teratogenic potential and overall safety in pregnancy will remain for many years to come.[1]


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