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Trial provides evidence that lamotrigine may be a clinical and cost-effective alternative to the existing standard drug treatment, carbamazepine, for epilepsy patients diagnosed as having partial seizures.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To compare clinicians' choice of one of the standard epilepsy drug treatments (carbamazepine or valproate) versus appropriate comparator new drugs.

DESIGN

A clinical trial comprising two arms, one comparing new drugs in carbamazepine and the other with valproate.

SETTING

A multicentre study recruiting patients with epilepsy from hospital outpatient clinics.

PARTICIPANTS

Patients with an adequately documented history of two or more clinically definite unprovoked epileptic seizures within the last year for whom treatment with a single antiepileptic drug represented the best therapeutic option.

INTERVENTIONS

Arm A was carbamazepine (CBZ) versus gabapentin (GBP) versus lamotrigine (LTG) versus oxcarbazepine (OXC) versus topiramate (TPM). Arm B valproate (VPS) versus LTG versus TPM.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Time to treatment failure (withdrawal of the randomised drug for reasons of unacceptable adverse events or inadequate seizure control or a combination of the two) and time to achieve a 12-month remission of seizures. Time from randomisation to first seizure, 24-month remission of seizures, incidence of clinically important adverse events, quality of life (QoL) outcomes and health economic outcomes were also considered.

RESULTS

Arm A recruited 1721 patients (88% with symptomatic or cryptogenic partial epilepsy and 10% with unclassified epilepsy). Arm B recruited 716 patients (63% with idiopathic generalised epilepsy and 25% with unclassified epilepsy). In Arm A LTG had the lowest incidence of treatment failure and was statistically superior to all drugs for this outcome with the exception of OXC. Some 12% and 8% fewer patients experienced treatment failure on LTG than CBZ, the standard drug, at 1 and 2 years after randomisation, respectively. The superiority of LTG over CBZ was due to its better tolerability but there is satisfactory evidence indicating that LTG is not clinically inferior to CBZ for measures of its efficacy. No consistent differences in QoL outcomes were found between treatment groups. Health economic analysis supported LTG being preferred to CBZ for both cost per seizure avoided and cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained. In Arm B for time to treatment failure, VPS, the standard drug, was preferred to both TPM and LTG, as it was the drug least likely to be associated with treatment failure for inadequate seizure control and was the preferred drug for time to achieving a 12-month remission. QoL assessments did not show any between-treatment differences. The health economic assessment supported the conclusion that VPS should remain the drug of first choice for idiopathic generalised or unclassified epilepsy, although there is a suggestion that TPM is a cost-effective alternative to VPS.

CONCLUSIONS

The evidence suggests that LTG may be a clinical and cost-effective alternative to the existing standard drug treatment, CBZ, for patients diagnosed as having partial seizures. For patients with idiopathic generalised epilepsy or difficult to classify epilepsy, VPS remains the clinically most effective drug, although TPM may be a cost-effective alternative for some patients. Three new antiepileptic drugs have recently been licensed in the UK for the treatment of epilepsy (levetiracetam, zonisamide and pregabalin), therefore these drugs should be compared in a similarly designed trial.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To compare clinicians' choice of one of the standard epilepsy drug treatments (carbamazepine or valproate) versus appropriate comparator new drugs.

DESIGN

A clinical trial comprising two arms, one comparing new drugs in carbamazepine and the other with valproate.

SETTING

A multicentre study recruiting patients with epilepsy from hospital outpatient clinics.

PARTICIPANTS

Patients with an adequately documented history of two or more clinically definite unprovoked epileptic seizures within the last year for whom treatment with a single antiepileptic drug represented the best therapeutic option.

INTERVENTIONS

Arm A was carbamazepine (CBZ) versus gabapentin (GBP) versus lamotrigine (LTG) versus oxcarbazepine (OXC) versus topiramate (TPM). Arm B valproate (VPS) versus LTG versus TPM.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Time to treatment failure (withdrawal of the randomised drug for reasons of unacceptable adverse events or inadequate seizure control or a combination of the two) and time to achieve a 12-month remission of seizures. Time from randomisation to first seizure, 24-month remission of seizures, incidence of clinically important adverse events, quality of life (QoL) outcomes and health economic outcomes were also considered.

RESULTS

Arm A recruited 1721 patients (88% with symptomatic or cryptogenic partial epilepsy and 10% with unclassified epilepsy). Arm B recruited 716 patients (63% with idiopathic generalised epilepsy and 25% with unclassified epilepsy). In Arm A LTG had the lowest incidence of treatment failure and was statistically superior to all drugs for this outcome with the exception of OXC. Some 12% and 8% fewer patients experienced treatment failure on LTG than CBZ, the standard drug, at 1 and 2 years after randomisation, respectively. The superiority of LTG over CBZ was due to its better tolerability but there is satisfactory evidence indicating that LTG is not clinically inferior to CBZ for measures of its efficacy. No consistent differences in QoL outcomes were found between treatment groups. Health economic analysis supported LTG being preferred to CBZ for both cost per seizure avoided and cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained. In Arm B for time to treatment failure, VPS, the standard drug, was preferred to both TPM and LTG, as it was the drug least likely to be associated with treatment failure for inadequate seizure control and was the preferred drug for time to achieving a 12-month remission. QoL assessments did not show any between-treatment differences. The health economic assessment supported the conclusion that VPS should remain the drug of first choice for idiopathic generalised or unclassified epilepsy, although there is a suggestion that TPM is a cost-effective alternative to VPS.

CONCLUSIONS

The evidence suggests that LTG may be a clinical and cost-effective alternative to the existing standard drug treatment, CBZ, for patients diagnosed as having partial seizures. For patients with idiopathic generalised epilepsy or difficult to classify epilepsy, VPS remains the clinically most effective drug, although TPM may be a cost-effective alternative for some patients. Three new antiepileptic drugs have recently been licensed in the UK for the treatment of epilepsy (levetiracetam, zonisamide and pregabalin), therefore these drugs should be compared in a similarly designed trial.

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