Purpose: Antiepileptic drug (AED) use in young people is increasing. However, evidence of its use at a multinational level is limited. This study aims to characterize AED prescribing in the young in three European countries and to assess the capacity of drug safety surveillance.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted in 2001-2005 using primary care databases: PEDIANET (Italy, 0-11 years), IPCI (The Netherlands, 0-18 years), and IMS Disease Analyzer (United Kingdom, 0-18 years). Prescribing prevalence was calculated by country, patient age, and drug type.
Results: In 2005, AED prevalence in children (0-11 years) was highest in Italy [3.9 subjects/1,000 person-years (PY)] followed by the United Kingdom (3.0 subjects/1,000 PY) and The Netherlands (2.2 subjects/1,000 PY). Over the study period, prescribing prevalence in 0-11 year olds was stable in all countries. In contrast, a steady rise of AED prevalence was observed in adolescents (12-18 years) in the United Kingdom (p = 0.0003) but not in The Netherlands (p = 0.88). All countries showed a slight increase in prevalence for newer AEDs. Simultaneously, the prevalence of conventional AEDs decreased in The Netherlands and Italy, but not in the United Kingdom. In 2005, lamotrigine use was highest in The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, whereas topiramate was favored in Italy.
Discussion: In Europe, conventional AEDs are still the main treatment choice for children with epilepsy, and the use of newer AEDs remains low. Our study highlights a lack of research capacity to conduct multinational AED safety studies in children. Further work should explore large databases and other health care settings to meet these research needs.