Reconsidering the role of selective sodium channel blockers in genetic generalized epilepsy

Objective

Selective sodium channel blockers (SSCBs) have a limited use in genetic generalized epilepsy (GGE), due to their well-known risk of seizure worsening. Although their therapeutic potential in GGE has been suggested by recent evidence, electro-clinical data supporting their prescription are lacking. We aimed to investigate SSCB safety and effectiveness in a GGE cohort.

Methods

Subjects who received SSCBs and had ≥5-year follow-up were enrolled. Lamotrigine was excluded from analysis due to its broader pharmacodynamic spectrum and its better-documented efficacy in GGE.

Results

Fifty-six patients (median follow-up 28.5 years) were included. The most used SSCB was carbamazepine in 40 subjects. At the last medical observation, only 9 subjects were still receiving SSCBs. The occurrence of generalized polyspike-wave discharges (GPSWDs) predicted reduced SSCB retention in Cox multivariate analysis. A seizure reduction ≥50% occurred in 53.5% (30/56) of subjects when considering all seizure types; however, the proportion of responders increased to 67.9% when considering only generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS). GPSWDs were significantly associated with a reduced response rate, whereas GGE with GTCS only syndrome with a better outcome. The switch from SSCBs to antiseizure medications licensed for GGE improved seizure control in 65% of patients. Seizure worsening was reported in 5/56 patients; juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and a family history of epilepsy were significantly associated with seizure aggravation.

Conclusion

SSCBs appeared effective on GTCS, but epilepsy aggravation and unsatisfactory control of other seizure types were not uncommon. Our study contributes to identifying new clinical and EEG variables associated with SSCB effectiveness and safety which may help neurologists in patients’ management.

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