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Pharmacol Ther. 2001 Apr;90(1):21-34.

The mechanisms of action of commonly used antiepileptic drugs.

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Epilepsy Unit, University Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Western Infirmary, Glasgow G11 6NT, Scotland, UK.


In the past decade, nine new drugs have been licensed for the treatment of epilepsy. With limited clinical experience of these agents, the mechanisms of action of antiepileptic drugs may be an important criterion in the selection of the most suitable treatment regimens for individual patients. At the cellular level, three basic mechanisms are recognised: modulation of voltage-dependent ion channels, enhancement of inhibitory neurotransmission, and attenuation of excitatory transmission. In this review, we will attempt to introduce the concepts of ion channel and neurotransmitter modulation and, thereafter, group currently used antiepileptic drugs according to their principal mechanisms of action.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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