Clinical pharmacokinetics and pharmacological effects of carbamazepine and carbamazepine-10,11-epoxide. An update

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1986 May-Jun;11(3):177-98. doi: 10.2165/00003088-198611030-00001.


Carbamazepine is a first-line drug in the treatment of most forms of epilepsy and also the drug of first choice in trigeminal neuralgia. Furthermore, it is now frequently used in bipolar depression. Most oral formulations of carbamazepine are well absorbed with high bioavailability. The drug is 75% bound to plasma proteins. The degree of protein binding shows little variation between different subjects, and there is no need to monitor free rather than total plasma concentrations. Carbamazepine is metabolised in the liver by oxidation before excretion in the urine. A major metabolite is carbamazepine-10,11-epoxide which is further metabolised by hydration before excretion. This epoxide-diol pathway is induced during long term treatment with carbamazepine. Co-medication with phenytoin or phenobarbitone further induces this metabolic pathway. Some but not all studies indicate an increased metabolism of carbamazepine during pregnancy. The drug crosses the placenta, and the newborns who are exposed to the drug during fetal life eliminate the drug readily after birth. There seems to be no problem to nurse children during treatment with carbamazepine. Metabolism of carbamazepine is comparable in children and adults. Several studies have tried to establish a relationship between plasma carbamazepine and clinical effect in epilepsy, but very few of these are controlled. The best anticonvulsant effect seems to be obtained at plasma concentrations of 15 to 40 mumol/L and a similar optimal plasma concentration range was found in a controlled study in trigeminal neuralgia. Side effects are more frequent at higher plasma concentrations but are also seen within that range. In some patients, with pronounced fluctuation of plasma concentrations during the dosage interval, side effects may be avoided by more frequent dosing. Carbamazepine-10,11-epoxide is a potent anticonvulsant in animal models. During treatment with carbamazepine the plasma concentrations of this metabolite are usually 10 to 50% of those of the parent drug. It has not been possible to establish the relative contribution of the two compounds to the pharmacological effects. The epoxide has therefore been given to humans with the aim of determining the relative potency of the parent drug and its metabolite. After single oral doses of carbamazepine-10,11-epoxide to healthy subjects, the compound was rapidly absorbed. As a mean of 90% of the given dose was recovered in urine as trans-10,11-dihydroxy-10,11-dihydro-carbamazepine, a complete absorption of unchanged epoxide was shown.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Carbamazepine / administration & dosage
  • Carbamazepine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carbamazepine / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Interactions
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kinetics
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Blood Proteins
  • Carbamazepine
  • carbamazepine epoxide