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

Randomised controlled trial to assess acceptability of phenobarbital for childhood epilepsy in rural India.

BACKGROUND: The use of phenobarbital for childhood epilepsy is controversial because of reported behavioural side-effects; however, whether this research can validly be extrapolated to developing countries is not clear. We undertook a randomised comparison of phenobarbital and phenytoin to assess the acceptability and efficacy of phenobarbital as monotherapy for childhood epilepsy in rural India. METHODS: Between August, 1995, and February, 1996, 109 unselected children aged 2-18 years with partial and generalised tonic-clonic epilepsy were identified by population screening. 15 families declined to take part. 94 children were randomly allocated treatment with phenobarbital (1.5 mg/kg daily for 2 weeks; maintenance dose 3.0 mg/kg daily; n = 47) or phenytoin (2.5 mg/kg daily then 5.0 mg/kg daily; n = 47). Children were followed up for 12 months. The primary outcome measure was the frequency of behavioural side-effects; behaviour was assessed by the Conners parent rating scale for children aged 6 years and older, and by the preschool behaviour screening questionnaire (BSQ) for those aged 2-5 years, at 12 months or at withdrawal from treatment. Analysis was by intention to treat. FINDINGS: The mean log-transformed scores on the behaviour rating scales did not differ significantly between the phenobarbital and phenytoin groups (Conners 2.64 [SD 0.71] vs 2.65 [0.89], p = 0.97; n = 32 in each group: BSQ 2.12 [1.31] vs 2.18 [1.02], p = 0.94; n = 4 vs 3). The odds ratio for behavioural problems (phenobarbital vs phenytoin) was 0.51 (95% CI 0.16-1.59). There was no excess in parental reports of side-effects for phenobarbital. We found no difference in efficacy between the study drugs (adjusted hazard ratio for time to first seizure from randomisation 0.97 [0.28-3.30]). INTERPRETATION: This evidence supports the acceptability of phenobarbital as a first-line drug for childhood epilepsy in rural settings in developing countries.[1]


  1. Randomised controlled trial to assess acceptability of phenobarbital for childhood epilepsy in rural India. Pal, D.K., Das, T., Chaudhury, G., Johnson, A.L., Neville, B.G. Lancet (1998) [Pubmed]
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