Levetiracetam vs. sulthiame in benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes in childhood: a double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial (German HEAD Study)

Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2013 Sep;17(5):507-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpn.2013.03.014. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Objective: To show non-inferiority of levetiracetam to sulthiame with respect to efficacy, tolerability and safety in benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes in a prospective, double-blinded randomized controlled trial.

Methods: A sample size of 60 subjects (treatment group) was calculated to show reliable statistical results for non-inferiority. A total of 44 patients could be randomly allocated to either (LEV or STM) treatment group. Explorative data analysis was performed to investigate differences in the number of treatment failure events (occurrence of a seizure during the observation period of 6 months) and total dropouts. In addition, information of the occurrence of adverse events was collected.

Results: 43 patients were analyzed. One patient had to be excluded due to protocol violation. Treatment failure events occurred in four patients (19.0%) in the LEV treatment group and in two patients (9.1%) in the STM treatment group, respectively, (p = 0.412). The number of dropouts due to adverse reactions was five in the LEV treatment group and one in STM treatment group (23.8% vs. 4.5%, respectively, p = 0.095). Severe adverse events occurred in patients treated with LEV (n = 2, 9.5%). The total number of dropouts due to either seizure recurrence or adverse events was significantly higher in the LEV group (n = 9, 42.9%) compared to the STM group (n = 3, 13.6%, p = 0.03).

Interpretation: The study results concerning non-inferiority were not conclusive, as the calculated sample size was not reached to support sufficient statistical power due to limited recruitment in a 26 months period. The rates of seizure free patients were [relatively] high in both groups. However, the results indicate that termination of drug treatment due to seizure recurrence or adverse events occurred more frequently in the LEV group compared to STM. Behavioral disturbances were the most common adverse event causing study termination.

Keywords: BECTS; Levetiracetam; Sulthiame.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levetiracetam
  • Male
  • Piracetam / adverse effects
  • Piracetam / analogs & derivatives*
  • Piracetam / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Thiazines / adverse effects*
  • Thiazines / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Thiazines
  • Levetiracetam
  • sulthiame
  • Piracetam