Phenytoin - An anti-seizure drug: Overview of its chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology

Food Chem Toxicol. 2020 Aug:142:111393. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2020.111393. Epub 2020 May 4.


Phenytoin is a long-standing, anti-seizure drug widely used in clinical practice. It has also been evaluated in the context of many other illnesses in addition to its original epilepsy indication. The narrow therapeutic index of phenytoin and its ubiquitous daily use pose a high risk of poisoning. This review article focuses on the chemistry, pharmacokinetics, and toxicology of phenytoin, with a special focus on its mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and teratogenicity. The side effects on human health associated with phenytoin use are thoroughly described. In particular, DRESS syndrome and cerebellar atrophy are addressed. This review will help in further understanding the benefits phenytoin use in the treatment of epilepsy.

Keywords: Cerebellar atrophy; DRESS syndrome; Pharmacokinetics; Phenytoin; Side effect; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / chemistry*
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Anticonvulsants / toxicity
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Humans
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Phenytoin / chemistry*
  • Phenytoin / pharmacology*
  • Phenytoin / toxicity
  • Teratogens / toxicity


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Teratogens
  • Phenytoin