Sodium Channel Blockers in the Treatment of Epilepsy

CNS Drugs. 2017 Jul;31(7):527-534. doi: 10.1007/s40263-017-0441-0.


Sodium channel blockers have been the mainstay of the pharmacological management of focal and generalised tonic-clonic seizures for more than 70 years. The focus of this paper will be on phenytoin, carbamazepine, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, rufinamide, lacosamide and eslicarbazepine acetate. All these antiepileptic drugs have similar efficacy and share similar dose-dependent, adverse effect profiles, although phenytoin, carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine are more likely to cause idiosyncratic reactions than the others. With the exception of lamotrigine, rufinamide and lacosamide, all are enzyme inducers and most are minor teratogens; although data on teratogenicity are sparse with lacosamide and eslicarbazepine acetate. There is increasing evidence that these drugs differ mechanistically, with the newer agents, lacosamide and eslicarbazepine acetate, having their major pharmacological effect on the slow inactivation state of the sodium channel, which may be associated with better tolerability at higher dosage, although hard evidence in support of this observation is currently not available. Rufinamide is licensed only for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in children aged 4 years and above. There is a move away from using enzyme inducers, particularly phenytoin and carbamazepine, in everyday clinical practice. There seems little doubt, however, that some sodium channel blockers will have an enduring place in the management of epilepsy well into the 21st century.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / adverse effects
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Sodium Channel Blockers