Pharmacologic treatment and SUDEP risk: A nationwide, population-based, case-control study

Neurology. 2020 Nov 3;95(18):e2509-e2518. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010874. Epub 2020 Sep 23.


Objective: We conducted a nationwide case-control study in Sweden to test the hypothesis that antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) mono- or polytherapy, adherence, antidepressants, neuroleptics, β-blockers, and statins are associated with sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) risk.

Methods: Included were 255 SUDEP cases and 1,148 matched controls. Information on clinical factors and medications came from medical records and the National Patient and Prescription Registers. The association between SUDEP and medications was assessed by odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) adjusted for potential risk factors including type of epilepsy, living conditions, comorbidity, and frequency of generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS).

Results: Polytherapy, especially taking 3 or more AEDs, was associated with a substantially reduced risk of SUDEP (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.14-0.67). Combinations including lamotrigine (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.31-0.97), valproic acid (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.29-0.98), and levetiracetam (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.27-0.90) were associated with reduced risk. No specific AED was associated with increased risk. Regarding monotherapy, although numbers were limited, the lowest SUDEP risk was seen in users of levetiracetam (0.10, 95% CI 0.02-0.61). Having nonadherence mentioned in the medical record was associated with an OR of 2.75 (95% CI 1.58-4.78). Statin use was associated with a reduced SUDEP risk (OR 0.34, 95% CI 0.11-0.99) but selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use was not.

Conclusion: These results provide support for the importance of medication adherence and intensified AED treatment for patients with poorly controlled GTCS in the effort to reduce SUDEP risk and suggest that comedication with statins may reduce risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / mortality*
  • Epilepsy / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Polypharmacy
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations