, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 441-452
Date: 09 Nov 2012

Comparative Pharmacokinetics of the Newer Antiepileptic Drugs

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Summary

During the past few years a major increase has taken place in the number of drugs which have become available in the antiepileptic arsenal. In fact, 3 new antiepileptic drugs, vigabatrin, oxcarbazepine and lamotrigine, were recently approved in several European countries. Two other drugs, felbamate and gabapentin, are expected to be approved in the US in the near future. This review comparatively evaluates the pharmacokinetics of the following 10 new antiepileptic drugs: felbamate, flunarizine, gabapentin, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, remacemide, stiripentol, tiagabine, topiramate and vigabatrin.

Three of the new drugs, gabapentin, topiramate and vigabatrin, are more promising on the basis of their pharmacokinetic features. They are well absorbed, excreted mainly unchanged in the urine, and are not susceptible to enzyme induction or inhibition. Their drug interaction potential appears to be minimal. About 50% of felbamate is excreted unchanged, with the rest eliminated by metabolism. The remaining drugs are eliminated by metabolic processes such as glucuronidation (lamotrigine), deglycine formation (remacemide) or oxidative metabolism (flunarizine and stiripentol). Oxcarbazepine and remacemide have high hepatic clearance and are biotransformed to hydroxy and deglycine metabolites, respectively, with the activity of their metabolites contributing to the antiepileptic activity of the parent drug after oral administration, despite high first-pass effect metabolism.

Gabapentin and oxcarbazepine do not behave pharmacokinetically as their original design intended. Gabapentin is not effective as a chemical drug delivery system for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and oxcarbazepine serves as a prodrug to its hydroxy metabolite, but does not act as a drug on its own. Nevertheless, these 2 agents demonstrate efficacy in extensive preclinical and clinical trials.

Although the pharmacokinetics features of these drugs are important, these features are secondary to their pharmacodynamic properties — i.e. to the requirement that new antiepileptic drugs have to have proven clinical efficacy and safety in epileptic patients.