Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Antiepileptic Drugs in Paediatric Patients: Part I: Phenobarbital, Primidone, Valproic Acid, Ethosuximide and Mesuximide

Dina Battino, Margherita Estienne, Giuliano Avanzini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews 119 papers published since 1964 on the pharmacokinetics of phenobarbital, primidone, valproic acid, ethosuximide and mesuximide (methsuximide) in paediatric patients. Particular attention has been paid to the role of age in determining the variability of pharmacokinetic parameters, but the effect of other factors, such as different formulations and routes of administration, concomitant treatments, gender and pathological conditions other than epilepsy, have also been considered. Mean phenobarbital terminal half-life (t½z) is very long in neonates (45 to 409 hours) and decreases with age. Therefore, a low dose per kilogram (dose/kg) is recommended during the neonatal period. The dose requirement decreases with increasing age, especially in children also taking valproic acid, which inhibits phenobarbital metabolism. Primidone is metabolised to phenobarbital and phenylethylmalonilamide; the metabolic conversion rate is increased by enzyme-inducing drugs and inversely correlated with age, being virtually absent in neonates. Valproic acid is extensively bound to plasma proteins, but there is a high interindividual and intraindividual diurnal variability in the binding, which depends on the concentration of binding proteins (i.e. albumin) and binding modulators (e.g. free fatty acids) but not on age (at least in those patients aged between 3 months and 65 years). The clearance (CL/F) of valproic acid positively correlates with the unbound concentrations and is strongly age-dependent, being low in neonates and high at the end of the first postnatal month, and progressively decreasing from 2 months to 14 years. The combination of these factors leads to a very poor correlation between plasma concentrations and dose/kg (C/D) and between plasma concentrations of total valproic acid and efficacy. Children also taking enzyme-inducing antiepileptic drugs require a larger valproic acid dose/kg, whereas the coadministration of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) may decrease the clearance of unbound drug (CLu/F), and thus require a decrease in the daily dose of valproic acid. Ethosuximide is well absorbed, minimally protein bound and slowly eliminated. Lower C/D ratios are reported in children younger than 10 years old than in older children and in individuals also taking enzyme-inducing drugs (i.e. primidone). According to the only available paper on mesuximide in paediatric patients, the C/D ratio is less sensitive to both age and associated therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-286
Number of pages30
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Antiepileptic Drugs in Paediatric Patients: Part I: Phenobarbital, Primidone, Valproic Acid, Ethosuximide and Mesuximide'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this