Summary: Purpose: This study compares the cognitive effects of topiramate (TPM) with those of valproate (VPA) using efficacious doses of each drug when used as adjunctive therapy to carbamazepine (CBZ). A key question of the study is to what extent a more gradual introduction of TPM improves tolerabil-ity and prevents cognitive impairment.
Methods: The study is a multicenter, randomized, observer-blinded, parallel-group clinical trial with VPA or TPM given as first-line add-on therapy to steady-state treatment with CBZ. TPM is introduced at 25 mg and increased with weekly 25-mg/d increments to a minimum dosage of 200 mg/d. The target dosage ranges from 200 to 400 mg/d for TPM and is 1800 mg/d for VPA. The study evaluates cognitive function changes from baseline to end point (after 20 weeks of treatment) and during titration (after 8 weeks of treatment). The primary outcome measure is the difference between the treatments (TPM versus VPA) in change from baseline to end point and change from baseline to titration, using a 95% confidence interval approach.
Results: For the 10 baseline-to-end point comparisons, one test measuring short-term verbal memory (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test) yields a statistically significant difference between the treatments (p = 0.02), showing worsening for TPM and improvement of scores for VPA. The 10 baseline-to-titration comparisons also show one statistically significant difference, again for a test measuring short-term memory (Recognition of Words; p = 0.04), showing a larger change in the negative direction for TPM. None of the mood tests or the test for subjective complaints shows statistically significant differences between the treatments, although more scores are in the negative direction for TPM during titration.
Conclusion: Although the pattern of changes in the negative direction seems consistent with clinical information, the differences found between the treatments are small. An important finding of our study is that, when the results are compared with those of other studies, it is clear that gradual introduction of TPM can reduce the extent of cognitive impairment (with a maximum of about 0.6 SD).