Tolerability of new antiepileptic drugs: a network meta-analysis

Gaetano Zaccara, Fabio Giovannelli*, Filippo Sean Giorgi, Valentina Franco, Sara Gasparini, Umberto Benedetto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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The objective of this study was to perform a comparative assessment of tolerability of all licensed new antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) through a network meta-analysis (NMA) including all placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trials (RCTs) in all conditions in which these drugs have been tested.

NMA with a frequentist approach was used to compare proportions of patients withdrawing because of adverse events (AEs). Analyses were conducted for all therapeutic doses pooled and specifically for high therapeutic doses. Patients treated with non-therapeutic doses of each drug were excluded.

A total of 195 RCTs were included in the current analysis, comprising a total of 28,013 patients treated with AEDs and 17,908 patients treated with placebo. RCTs included in the analysis were 8 for brivaracetam; 5 for eslicarbazepine; 22 for gabapentin; 7 for lacosamide; 14 for levetiracetam; 14 for lamotrigine; 6 for oxcarbazepine; 9 for perampanel; 50 for pregabalin; 5 for tiagabine; 36 for topiramate; 7 for zonisamide; 4 for gabapentin-extended formulation (ER); 2 each for levetiracetam-ER, lamotrigine-ER, and topiramate-ER; and 1 each for oxcarbazepine-ER and pregabalin-ER. Brivaracetam, gabapentin, gabapentin-ER, and levetiracetam had a significantly lower withdrawal rate compared to several other AEDs, while eslicarbazepine, lacosamide, oxcarbazepine, and topiramate had a higher withdrawal rate. Perampanel, lamotrigine, pregabalin, tiagabine, and zonisamide showed an intermediate pattern of tolerability. Additional analysis has been conducted through selection of highly recommended doses for each drug. This analysis has roughly confirmed results of head to head comparisons of the all-dose analysis, with some exceptions. A further analysis has been conducted after exclusion of RCTs in which patients were allocated to the therapeutic dose of the experimental drug without titration, and it failed to show clinically important differences.

Relevant differences in short-term tolerability of AEDs have been observed between AEDs. Brivaracetam, gabapentin, and levetiracetam show the best tolerability profile while other AEDs are at higher risk for intolerable adverse effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-817
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number7
Early online date4 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • meta-analysis
  • network meta-analysis
  • adverse effects
  • . Tolerability of antiepileptic drugs
  • Brivaracetam
  • Perampanel
  • Eslicarbazepine
  • Lacosamide


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