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Drugs Aging. 2000 Dec;17(6):441-52.

Choice and use of newer anticonvulsant drugs in older patients.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri 63104, USA.


Epilepsy is common in the elderly. The incidence of epilepsy is age-dependent, with a peak during the first year of life and higher incidence in those older than 75 years. Cerebrovascular disease is a common cause of epilepsy in the elderly. Drug treatment of the elderly is a challenge because of pharmacokinetic changes with aging, including impaired drug protein binding or displacement of drug from protein binding sites, potentially causing drug toxicity as a result of increased free drug concentrations. With aging, hepatic mass and blood flow decline along with renal function. Established anticonvulsant drugs have adverse effects and drug interactions that can make treating the elderly difficult. Newly available anticonvulsants cause fewer drug-drug interactions and less toxicity. Gabapentin is not metabolised, is not bound to protein, and has a favourable adverse effect profile and thus may be useful in the treatment of elderly patients. Lamotrigine reduced seizures between 20 and 30% in trials. Dose response was between 300mg per day and 500mg per day. This drug was well tolerated in open-label trials. Rash occurred in younger patients. Oxcarbazepine is rapidly absorbed and is converted to a monohydroxy derivative. Use with hepatic enzyme-inducing drugs necessitates an increase in dose. This drug may be substituted for carbamazepine. Hyponatraemia has been reported and monitoring is suggested. Topiramate blocks voltage-dependent sustained repetitive firing and has an effect on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. It affects glutamate responses and inhibits carbonic anhydrase. Topiramate has a dose response pattern up to 400mg per day. Cognitive effects limits its use in some patients. Nephrolithiasis has occurred with this drug. Tiagabine blocks GABA transporter proteins. Clearance is rapid and metabolism complete. Hepatic dysfunction prolongs clearance. The use of tiagabine has not been reported in the elderly. Zonisamide is rapidly absorbed and protein binding is 50%. Plasma half-life is 55 hours but is reduced to about 30 hours by hepatic enzyme-inducing drugs. Responder rate is 45%. Adverse effects include drowsiness, altered thinking and nephrolithiasis. Treatment of the elderly requires obligatory polypharmacy with potential drug interactions. Changes in body physiology alter absorption, binding, metabolism and elimination of drugs. Concomitant illness and sensitivity to drug effects narrow the therapeutic range and complicate pharmacokinetics in elderly patients. Newer anticonvulsant drugs have advantages that may outweigh risks and have therapeutic profiles that may aid in the treatment of this special population of patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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