Recent advances in pharmacotherapy for epilepsy

Curr Opin Neurol. 2023 Apr 1;36(2):77-85. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000001144. Epub 2023 Feb 10.


Purpose of review: Epilepsy affects 70 million people worldwide and is a significant cause of morbidity and early mortality. The mainstay of therapy is oral medications. Epilepsy drug development is escalating, driven by continued drug resistance in up to a third of epilepsy patients. Treatment development now focuses on discovery of novel mechanisms of action and syndrome-specific therapies.

Recent findings: Difficult-to-treat epilepsy related to conditions including tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS) have been the target of recent developments. Disease-modifying therapy for epilepsy related to TSC with vigabatrin at onset of first electroencephalographic epileptiform changes, rather than after first clinical seizure, has demonstrated strongly positive seizure and developmental outcomes. Fenfluramine, approved for DS and, more recently, LGS, has robust data supporting efficacy, safety/tolerability, as well as mortality, quality of life and cognitive function. Rescue therapy has expanded to include better tolerated benzodiazepines in the form of nasal midazolam and valium. Cenobamate, a first-in-class inactivator of the persistent voltage-gated sodium channel and approved for adult partial onset epilepsy, has exceptional efficacy and tolerability and will be expanded to children and to generalized onset epilepsy in adults.

Summary: The repertoire of available and developmental therapies for epilepsy is rapidly expanding, and now includes disease-modifying vigabatrin in TSC and agents with extraordinary efficacy, fenfluramine and cenobamate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic* / chemically induced
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsies, Partial*
  • Epilepsy* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy* / etiology
  • Fenfluramine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lennox Gastaut Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Vigabatrin / therapeutic use


  • Cenobamate
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Vigabatrin
  • Fenfluramine