Treatment-refractory epilepsy: An evidence-based approach to antiepileptic monotherapy

Andres M. Kanner, Jocelyn F. Bautista, Thomas R. Browne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Treatment options for epilepsy have increased in the last decade with the introduction of several new anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). As drug selection becomes more challenging, the use of evidence-based guidelines to aid in treatment decisions has become increasingly valued. The American Academy of Neurology's (AAN) guidelines for the use of new AEDs in refractory epilepsy offers many benefits, including expert panel recommendations based on clinically relevant questions with evidence-based responses. However, lack of evidence from randomized-controlled trials, particularly as they relate to monotherapy, limits the recommendations and their use in practice. The studies of new AEDs as monotherapy in treatment-refractory epilepsy are difficult to incorporate into clinical use because they are driven by Food and Drug Administration requirements to show superiority over placebo or pseudoplacebo (ie, low dose of active drug) rather than by clinical questions. However, based on Class I evidence, the AAN guidelines have granted Level A recommendations (established effectiveness) for oxcarbazepine and topiramate monotherapy, and a Level B recommendation (probable effectiveness) for lamotrigine monotherapy in the use of refractory partial epilepsy. There is insufficient evidence to recommend gabapentin, levetiracetam, tiagabine, or zonisamide monotherapy. No monotherapy AED trials have been conducted in refractory generalized epilepsy. Because no differences in efficacy have been reported for AEDs as initial therapy of partial seizures, differences in adverse events, such as weight gain, tremor, and hair loss, are key in drug selection. More comparative studies between the AEDs are necessary for both monotherapy and add-on therapy for treatment-refractory epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalCNS spectrums
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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