Choice of Antiepileptic Drugs for the Elderly: Possible Drug Interactions and Adverse Effects

Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2012 Jan;8(1):81-91. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2012.645535. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Introduction: Antiepileptic drugs are prescribed to patients of all ages and are commonly prescribed to patients over the age of 65. When prescribing these drugs to patients of this age bracket, treatment should be based not only on the diagnosis and seizure type but also on the propensity of the drugs for adverse effects and their drug-drug interactions.

Areas covered: This article reviews antiepileptic drugs currently used for treating the elderly and highlights the adverse effects and potential drug-drug interactions for these treatments. The article was complied through literature searches of the Cochrane database of systematic reviews, MEDLINE and SCindeks.

Expert opinion: In elderly patients who have hepatic diseases, antiepileptic drugs that are not metabolized in the liver, such as levetiracetam, are preferred; in patients with moderate and severe renal failure, carbamazepine and valproic acid are the preferred antiepileptic drugs. Phenytoin, fosphenytoin, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine and lamotrigine should not be prescribed in elderly patients with cardiac conduction abnormalities or a history of ventricular arrhythmia. While the majority of antiepileptic drugs interact with other drugs, hepatic enzymes and plasma proteins, a few newer antiepileptic drugs are free from such interactions (e.g., gabapentin, levetiracetam and tiagabine), which make them suitable candidates for elderly patients. However, in order to make further recommendations regarding the choice and dosing regimens of antiepileptic drugs in elderly patients, more extensive clinical research in this specific population is necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / metabolism*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Carbamazepine / adverse effects
  • Carbamazepine / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Choice Behavior
  • Drug Interactions / physiology
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Levetiracetam
  • Piracetam / adverse effects
  • Piracetam / analogs & derivatives
  • Piracetam / metabolism


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Carbamazepine
  • Levetiracetam
  • Piracetam