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Epilepsia. 1999;40 Suppl 6:S3-8; discussion S73-4.

Clinical experience with new antiepileptic drugs: antiepileptic drugs in Europe.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Bordeaux, Hôpital Pellegrin, France.


The use of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), singly and in combination, has been marked by variation among European countries and by a slow progress toward a standard of care that is still far from uniform. Phenobarbital, phenytoin, trimethadione, and primidone, given in various combinations, were the predominant agents used in the first half of this century. Prescribing habits differed among the Latin countries, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia, based on local trends, divergent teaching philosophies of medical schools, and the medical specialty of the prescribing physician. The advent of carbamazepine and valproate, in the early 1960s, changed European prescribing habits. Despite early fears regarding bone marrow toxicity, carbamazepine was found to be superior for treatment of complex partial seizures. Valproate, when the proper therapeutic dosage was belatedly realized, was seen as a superior treatment for generalized and partial epilepsies. Both agents are now considered first-line treatments for these seizure types. The role of the benzodiazepines as adjunctive anticonvulsant therapy remains controversial because of concerns about neurotoxicity and patient tolerance. The number of AEDs marketed in Europe has grown dramatically in the past decade, with agents such as felbamate, gabapentin, lamotrigine, and tiagabine having been approved as either adjunctive or sole therapy. However, not all new agents are available in each European country, and some variation in prescribing persists.

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