Epilepsy is an important neurological condition and drug resistance in epilepsy is particularly common in individuals with focal seizures. In this review, we summarise the current evidence regarding a new antiepileptic drug, levetiracetam, when used as add-on treatment for controlling drug-resistant focal epilepsy. This is an update to a Cochrane Review that was originally published in 2001.
To evaluate the effectiveness of levetiracetam, added on to usual care, in treating drug-resistant focal epilepsy.
We searched the Cochrane Epilepsy Group's Specialized Register (August 2012), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library Issue 7, 2012), and MEDLINE (1946 to August week 1, 2012). We also contacted the manufacturers of levetiracetam and researchers in the field to seek any ongoing or unpublished trials.
Randomised, placebo-controlled trials of add-on levetiracetam treatment in people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy.
Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, assessed trials for bias, extracted data, and evaluated the overall quality of evidence. Outcomes investigated included 50% or greater reduction in focal seizure frequency (response); less than 50% reduction in focal seizure frequency (non-response); treatment withdrawal; adverse effects (including a specific analysis of changes in behaviour); cognitive effects and quality of life (QoL). Risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used as measures of effect (99% CIs for adverse effects). Primary analyses were Intention-to-Treat (ITT). Dose response and inter-trial heterogeneity were evaluated in regression models.
Eleven trials (1861 participants) were included. They predominantly possessed low risks of bias. Participants were adults in nine trials (1565 participants) and children in the remaining two trials (296 participants). The dose of levetiracetam tested was 1000 to 4000 mg/day in adults, and 60 mg/kg/day in children. Treatment ranged from 12 to 24 weeks. For the 50% or greater reduction in focal seizure frequency outcome, the RR was significantly in favour of levetiracetam at all doses. The naive estimates, ignoring dose, showed children (52% responded) as better responders than adults (39% responded) on levetiracetam. 25% of children and 16% of adults responded to placebo. The Number Needed to Treat for an additional beneficial outcome for children and adults was four (95% CI three to seven) and five (95% CI four to six), respectively. The significant levels of statistical heterogeneity between trials on adults precluded valid provision of an overall RR (ignoring dose). Results for the two trials that tested levetiracetam 2000 mg on adults were sufficiently similar to be combined to give an RR for 50% or greater reduction in focal seizure frequency of 4.91 (95% CI 2.75 to 8.77), with an RR of 0.68 (95% CI 0.60 to 0.77) for non-response. At this dose, 37% and 8% of adults were responders in the levetiracetam and placebo groups, respectively. Regression analysis demonstrated that much of the heterogeneity between adult trials was likely to be explained by different doses of levetiracetam tested and different years of trial publication. There was no evidence of statistical heterogeneity between trials on children. For these trials, the RR for 50% or greater reduction in focal seizure frequency was 1.91 (95% CI 1.38 to 2.63), with an RR of 0.68 (95% CI 0.56 to 0.81) for non-response. 27% of children responded. Participants were not significantly more likely to have levetiracetam withdrawn (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.73 to 1.32 and RR 0.80; 95% CI 0.43 to 1.46 for adults and children, respectively). For adults, somnolence (RR 1.51; 99% CI 1.06 to 2.17) and infection (RR 1.76; 99% CI 1.03 to 3.02) were significantly associated with levetiracetam. Accidental injury was significantly associated with placebo (RR 0.60; 99% CI 0.39 to 0.92). No individual adverse effect was significantly associated with levetiracetam in children. Changes in behaviour were negligible in adults (1% affected; RR 1.79; 99% CI 0.59 to 5.41) but significant in children (23% affected; RR 1.90; 99% CI 1.16 to 3.11). Cognitive effect and QoL outcomes suggested that levetiracetam had a positive effect on cognition and some aspects of QoL in adults. In children, levetiracetam did not appear to alter cognitive function but there was evidence of worsening in certain aspects of child behaviour. The overall quality of evidence used was high.