Effects of common anti-epileptic drug monotherapy on serum levels of homocysteine, vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6.Seizure 2006; 15(2):79-85S
There is emerging evidence to support the unfavorable effects of some anti-epileptic drugs on the plasma homocysteine concentrations. Elevated homocysteine levels induced by anti-epileptic drug administration can theoretically increase not only the risk of vascular occlusive diseases, but also the risk of resistance to anti-epileptics and development of refractory epilepsy. To investigate the effect of common anti-epileptic drugs on the homocysteine metabolism, a total of 75 epileptic patients receiving phenytoin (n=16), carbamazepine (n=19), or valproic acid (n=22) and no anti-epileptic drug (n=18) were enrolled. Eleven age- and sex-matched healthy subjects served as the control group. Blood concentrations of homocysteine, folic acid, Vitamin B12 and pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (active circulating form of Vitamin B6) were measured. Compared to the control group, epileptic patients on anti-epileptic drug had higher blood levels of homocysteine. No difference in homocysteine concentrations was observed among epileptic patients in terms of the anti-epileptic drug used. Patients receiving phenytoin had significantly lower folic acid levels and those receiving carbamazepine had marginally lower pyridoxal 5'-phosphate levels in comparison with those using other anti-epileptic drugs. A negative correlation between homocysteine and folic acid concentrations was detected in epileptic patients on anti-epileptic drug. The duration of anti-epileptic drug use was correlated to the decrease of folic acid levels, but not with changes observed in homocysteine, Vitamin B12 and pyridoxal 5'-phosphate levels. No relationship between seizure frequency and homocysteine levels was observed in epileptic patients. Our results confirm that common anti-epileptic drugs has disadvantageous effects on homocysteine status. Because there was no significant change in homocysteine concentrations in epileptic patients who were not receiving an anti-epileptic drug, and no positive correlation between seizure frequency and homocysteine levels, we suggest that increase of homocysteine levels may be due to anti-epileptic drug use, rather than being epileptic in origin. Additionally, the underlying mechanism for homocysteine increase seems to be a decrease of cofactor molecules in patients using carbamazepine and phenytoin (pyridoxal 5'-phosphate and folic acid, respectively). However, changes observed are not related to the alteration in the levels of cofactors and remain unclear in the patients using valproic acid.