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Keywords:

  • Antiepileptic drugs;
  • AED;
  • Cognitive side effects;
  • CalCAP;
  • Carbamazepine;
  • Valproate

Summary: Purpose: All major antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) have been reported to be associated with cognitive side effects. Uncertainty exists regarding the degree of cognitive effects, primarily because many studies do not adhere to basic standards of methodology and design. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of discontinuation of AEDs in patients receiving monotherapy on measures of attention, reaction time, and speed of information processing.

Methods: The 150 subjects who had been seizure free >2 years on drug monotherapy went through a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Each patient was included for 12 months or until seizure relapse. Cognitive function was assessed with the California Computerized Assessment Package at baseline and 7 months after discontinuation.

Results: The major finding in this study is that discontinuation of major AEDs significantly improved performance on tests that require complex cognitive processing under time pressure. The difference in speed of cognitive processing between the two groups on these tasks was between 24 to 43 ms. Simple tasks of attention and reaction time revealed no significant differences between the discontinuation group and the nondiscontinuation group. Most of the subjects in the study were medicated with carbamazepine (CBZ) and valproate (VPA). The outcome of discontinuation of CBZ was similar to the outcome for the total study population, whereas withdrawal of VPA revealed only a nonsignificant tendency in the same direction.

Conclusions: The results suggest that seizure-free epilepsy patients receiving monotherapy can obtain improvement in cognitive function if they discontinue AED treatment.