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Original Investigation
February 24, 2020

Tolerability of Antiseizure Medications in Individuals With Newly Diagnosed Epilepsy

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
  • 2College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • 3Epilepsy Unit, Scottish Epilepsy Initiative, Glasgow, Scotland
  • 4Central Clinical School, Department of Neuroscience, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 5Department of Medicine, Royal Melbourne Hospital, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  • 6School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Clinical Epidemiology, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(5):574-581. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.0032
Key Points

Question  Has the overall tolerability of antiseizure medications (ASMs) improved after the introduction of more than a dozen second-generation ASMs in the past 3 decades?

Findings  In this 30-year longitudinal cohort study of 1795 individuals with newly diagnosed and treated epilepsy, the intolerable adverse effect rate observed was not improved despite the increased using of second-generations ASMs.

Meaning  Efficacy and tolerability are 2 sides of the same coin in achieving successful epilepsy treatment; to improve the overall effectiveness of ASM treatment, future drug development should not only focus on seizure control, but also tolerability and safety profile.


Importance  Tolerability is a key determinant of the effectiveness of epilepsy treatment. It is important to evaluate whether the overall tolerability has improved.

Objective  To identify factors associated with poor tolerability of antiseizure medications (ASMs) and examine temporal changes in tolerability.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This was a longitudinal cohort study at a specialist clinic in Glasgow, Scotland. Patients with newly diagnosed and treated epilepsy between July 1982 and October 2012 were included from 2282 eligible individuals. They were followed up until April 2016 or death. Data analysis was completed in August 2019.

Exposures  Antiseizure medications.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Univariable and multivariable survival analyses were performed to examine associations between potential risk factors and development of intolerable adverse effects (AEs). Intolerable AE rates of the ASMs as the initial monotherapy were compared between 3 epochs (July 1982-June 1992, July 1992-June 2002, and July 2002-April 2016).

Results  Of 1795 patients, 969 (54.0%) were male, and the median (interquartile range) age was 33 (21-50) years. A total of 3241 ASMs were prescribed during the period, of which 504 (15.6%) were discontinued within 6 months owing to intolerable AEs. Children younger than 18 years had lower intolerable AE rates than adults (vs aged 18-64 years: adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.58; 95% CI, 1.07-2.32; vs aged ≥65 years: aHR, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.19-3.02) while female individuals (aHR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.30-1.96) and those who had more than 5 pretreatment seizures (aHR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.03-1.49) were associated with having higher risk. For each ASM trial, the risk of intolerable AEs increased with the number of previous drug withdrawals due to AEs (aHR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.09-1.28) and the number of concomitant ASMs (aHR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.04-1.64). The proportion of second-generation ASMs prescribed as the initial monotherapy increased from 22.3% (33 of 148) in the first epoch to 68.7% (645 of 939) in the last (P < .001). Although differences in intolerable AE rates and types of AEs were found between the ASMs, there was no difference in the overall intolerable AEs rates to the initial monotherapy across the 3 epochs (first: 10.1% [15 of 148]; second: 13.8% [98 of 708]; third: 14.0% [131 of 939]; P = .41).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cohort study, the increased use of the second-generation ASMs had not improved overall treatment tolerability. Greater effort to improve tolerability in ASM development is needed.

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