Purpose: Lamotrigine is an effective add-on therapy against a range of epileptic seizure types. Comparative studies with carbamazepine (CBZ) as monotherapy in newly diagnosed epilepsy suggest similar efficacy. In this study, lamotrigine (LTG) and phenytoin (PHT) are compared.
Methods: In a double-blind parallel-groups study, 181 patients with newly diagnosed untreated partial seizures or secondarily or primary generalised tonic-clonic seizures were randomised to two treatment groups. One group (n = 86) received LTG titrated over 6 weeks from a starting dose of 100 mg/day. The other (n = 95) received PHT titrated from 200 mg/day. Treatment continued for < or =48 weeks.
Results: The percentages of patients remaining on each treatment and seizure free during the last 24 and 40 weeks of the study, and times to first seizure after the first 6 weeks of treatment (dose-titration period), did not differ significantly between the treatment groups. These were measures of efficacy. Time to discontinuation, a composite index of efficacy and safety, likewise did not distinguish between treatments. Adverse events led to discontinuation of 13 (15%) patients from LTG and 18 (19%) from PHT. The adverse-event profile for LTG was dominated by skin rash [discontinuation of 10 (11.6%) patients compared with five (5.3%) from PHT] rather than central nervous system side effects: asthenia, somnolence, and ataxia were each significantly more frequent in the PHT group. The high rate of rash with LTG was probably due to the high starting dose and may be avoidable. A quality-of-life instrument, the SEALS inventory, favoured LTG. Patients taking PHT showed the biochemical changes expected of an enzyme-inducing drug, whereas those taking LTG did not.
Conclusions: LTG and PHT monotherapy were similarly effective against these seizure types in patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy. LTG was better tolerated, more frequently causing rash, but with a lower incidence of central nervous system side effects.