Topiramate is a new antiepileptic drug which has recently become available in the United States and in a number of European countries. Pharmacological studies suggest that its mode of action is multifactorial and involves blockade of voltage-dependent sodium channels, potentiation of GABAergic transmission and inhibition of excitatory pathways through an action at AMPA receptor sites. Carbonic anhydrase inhibiting properties have also been demonstrated but they are considered not to be relevant to anticonvulsant activity. Topiramate is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, peak plasma levels being usually attained in 2-3 hours. The drug is negligibly (9-17%) bound to plasma proteins and is eliminated partly by renal excretion in unchanged form and partly by oxidation and hydrolysis. In healthy volunteers, the half-life is about 20-30 hours, but elimination rate is accelerated in patients taking concomitant enzyme inducing drugs such as phenytoin, carbamazepine and barbiturates. Topiramate has no major effects on plasma levels of concurrent anticonvulsants, except for a rise in plasma phenytoin in occasional patients. In double-blind add-on trials in refractory partial epilepsy, a significant reduction in seizure frequency has been demonstrated in over 40% of topiramate-treated patients (vs about 10% of those treated with placebo), a response rate which compares favourably with that observed with other new antiepileptic drugs. Dosages found to be effective in add-on controlled trials range between 200 and 1000 mg day-1, although most patients are likely to benefit from receiving 400 mg day-1 or less. Preliminary data suggest that topiramate may be effective also in generalized epilepsies, but this needs to be confirmed in prospective studies. The most common adverse effects of topiramate are CNS-related and include dizziness, fatigue, visual disturbances, ataxia, mental slowing and impaired concentration. Paresthesias, anorexia, weight loss and increased risk of nephrolithiasis have been also reported. Many of these effects are related to dose and/or to rate of dose titration. Based on these data, topiramate appears to be a valuable new drug, whose main current indication is in the add-on management of refractory partial and secondarily generalized seizures. Studies on its potential value as monotherapy are in progress.
- Side effects
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