Purpose: To assess the comparative therapeutic value of valproate (VPA), lamotrigine (LTG), and their combination in patients with complex partial seizures resistant to other established antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).
Methods: After a 3-month prospective baseline, 20 adults with refractory complex partial seizures not exposed previously to VPA and LTG were scheduled to receive three consecutive add-on treatments with VPA, LTG, or their combination, according to an open, response-conditional, crossover design. Each period consisted of a 6- to 12-week dose optimization followed by 3-month evaluation at stabilized serum drug levels. Only patients not responding to one phase proceeded to the next.
Results: A >50% reduction in seizure frequency was observed in three of 20 patients given VPA and in four of 17 patients given LTG. Of the remaining 13 patients, four became seizure free, and an additional four experienced seizure reductions of 62-78% when VPA and LTG were given in combination. Mild tremor was observed in three patients receiving VPA and in all patients taking the VPA--LTG combination. In patients responding to combination therapy, optimized dosages and peak serum levels of both VPA and LTG were lower than those during separate administration.
Conclusions: A considerable proportion of patients who failed to respond to VPA and LTG separately improved when the two drugs were combined, although serum levels of both agents were lower during combination therapy. Despite methodologic limitations in the nonrandomized treatment sequence, these findings suggest that VPA and LTG exhibit a favorable pharmacodynamic interaction in patients with refractory partial epilepsy. The dosage of both drugs, however, may need to be reduced to minimize the risk of intolerable side effects.