Gabapentin is an antiepileptic drug with an unknown mechanism of action apparently dissimilar to that of other antiepileptic agents, and possessing some desirable pharmacokinetic traits. The drug is not protein bound, is not metabolised and does not induce liver enzymes, diminishing the likelihood of drug interactions with other antiepileptic agents and drugs such as oral contraceptives. Although gabapentin is a structural analogue of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which does not cross the blood-brain barrier, gabapentin penetrates into the CNS and its activity is seemingly distinct from GABA-related effects. Present clinical evaluation is largely restricted to proof of efficacy trials of gabapentin as add-on therapy in patients with partial epilepsy resistant to conventional treatment. Gabapentin (usually 600 to 1800 mg/day) provides notable benefit, reducing seizure frequency by > or = 50% in 18 to 28% of patients with refractory partial seizures, as shown in 3 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Overall, seizure frequency decreased by 18 to 32% during 3-month treatment periods. Patients with complex partial seizures, and partial seizures secondarily generalised, are particularly likely to respond to gabapentin. Current experience with the drug in other seizure types, and as monotherapy, is limited. Mild adverse events, commonly somnolence, fatigue, ataxia and dizziness, have been reported in about 75% of gabapentin recipients. While the drug has been well tolerated when administered to a few patients for periods of up to 5 years, its long term tolerability profile has yet to be fully expounded. Thus, with its favourable pharmacokinetic profile, and efficacy in some refractory patients, gabapentin is poised to fill a niche as an adjunct to the treatment of partial epilepsy. Promising results obtained thus far warrant further work to clarify its long term tolerability, its possible efficacy in other seizure types, its position relative to other agents and its use as monotherapy. In the meantime, gabapentin is likely to provide a much-needed option in a therapeutic area requiring complex management.