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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD007124. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007124.pub2.

Immediate-release versus controlled-release carbamazepine in the treatment of epilepsy.

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University Department of Neurological Science, Clinical Sciences Centre for Research & Education, Lower Lane, Fazakerley, Liverpool, UK, L9 7LJ.



Epilepsy is defined as the tendency to spontaneous, excessive neuronal discharge, manifesting as seizures. It is a common disorder with an incidence of 50 per 100,000 per year and a prevalence of 0.5% to 1% (Hauser 1993) in the developed world.Carbamazepine is a commonly used antiepileptic drug that is associated with a number of troublesome adverse events including dizziness, double vision and unsteadiness. These often occur during peaks in plasma concentration. The occurrence of such adverse events may limit the daily dose that can be tolerated and reduce the chances of seizure control for patients requiring higher doses (Vojvodic 2002). A controlled-release formulation of carbamazepine delivers the same dose over a longer period of time when compared to a standard formulation, thereby reducing post-dose peaks and potentially reducing adverse events associated with peak plasma levels.


To determine the efficacy of immediate-release carbamazepine (IR CBZ) versus controlled-release carbamazepine (CR CBZ) in patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy.To determine the efficacy of switching to CR CBZ in patients treated with IR CBZ but experiencing unacceptable adverse events.


We searched the Cochrane Epilepsy Group Specialised Register (25 September 2009), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 4), and MEDLINE (1950 to September week 3, 2009).


Randomised controlled trials comparing IR CBZ to CR CBZ in patients commencing monotherapy and patients presently treated with IR CBZ but experiencing unacceptable adverse events.Primary outcome measures include seizure frequency, incidence of adverse events, proportions with treatment failure and quality of life measures.


The methodological quality of each study was assessed with respect to study design, type of control, method and concealment of allocation, blinding and completeness of follow up, and the presence of blinding for assessment of non-fatal outcomes. We did not make use of an overall quality score.Two review authors (GP, MS) independently extracted the data and recorded relevant information on a standardised data extraction form. Results were assessed for inclusion.The heterogeneity of the included trials resulted in only a narrative, descriptive analysis being possible for both categorical and time-to-event data.


Ten trials fulfilled the criteria for inclusion in this review. One trial included patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy and nine included patients on treatment with IR CBZ.Eight trials reported heterogeneous measures of seizure frequency with conflicting results. A statistically significant difference was observed in only one trial, with patients prescribed CR CBZ experiencing fewer seizures than patients prescribed IR CBZ.Nine trials reported measures of adverse events. There was a trend in favour of CR CBZ with four trials reporting a statistically significant reduction in adverse events compared to IR CBZ. A further two trials reported fewer adverse events with CR CBZ, not statistically significant. One trial found no difference, with a further trial reporting increased adverse events in the CR CBZ although not statistically significant.


At present, data from trials do not confirm or refute an advantage for CR CBZ over IR CBZ for seizure frequency or adverse events in patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy.For trials involving epilepsy patients already prescribed IR CBZ, no conclusions can be drawn concerning superiority of CR CBZ with respect to seizure frequency.There is a trend for CR CBZ to be associated with fewer adverse events when compared to IR CBZ. A change to CR CBZ may therefore be a worthwhile strategy in patients with acceptable seizure control on IR CBZ but experiencing unacceptable adverse events. The included trials were of small size, poor methodological quality and possessed a high risk of bias, limiting the validity of this conclusion.Randomised controlled trials comparing CR CBZ to IR CBZ and using clinically relevant outcomes are required to inform the choice of CBZ preparation for patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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