Purpose: Given serious concerns over the adverse effects of enzyme induction, modern nonenzyme-inducing antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) may be preferable, provided they have similar efficacy as enzyme-inducing AEDs. This is currently unclear.
Methods: Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis of the evidence to determine the placebo-corrected efficacy of adjunctive treatment with modern nonenzyme-inducing AEDs versus modern enzyme-inducing AEDs that are on the market for refractory focal epilepsy.
Key Findings: Of 322 potentially eligible articles reviewed in full text, 129 (40%) fulfilled eligibility criteria. After excluding 92 publications, 37 studies dealing with a total of 9,860 patients with refractory focal epilepsy form the basis for the evidence. The overall weighted pooled-risk ratio (RR) in favor of enzyme-inducing AEDs over placebo was 2.37 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.77–3.18, p < 0.001) for at least 50% seizure reduction and 4.45 (2.26–8.76, p < 0.001) for seizure freedom. The corresponding weighted pooled RR in favor of nonenzyme-inducing AEDs over placebo was 2.28 (95% CI 2.03–2.57, p < 0.001) for at least 50% seizure reduction and 3.23 (95% CI 2.23–4.67, p < 0.001) for seizure freedom. In a meta-regression analysis in the same sample with at least 50% seizure reduction as outcome, the ratio of RRs for enzyme-inducing AEDs (eight studies) versus nonenzyme-inducing AEDs (29 studies) was 1.01 (95% CI 0.77–1.34, p = 0.92)). Similarly, the ratio of RRs for a seizure-free outcome for enzyme-inducing AEDs (six studies) versus nonenzyme-inducing AEDs (19 studies) was 1.38 (95% CI 0.60–3.16, p = 0.43).
Significance: Although the presence of moderate heterogeneity may reduce the validity of the results and limit generalizations from the findings, we conclude that the efficacy of adjunctive treatment with modern nonenzyme-inducing AEDs is similar to that of enzyme-inducing AEDs. Given the negative consequences of enzyme induction, our data suggest that nonenzyme-inducing AEDs may be useful alternatives to enzyme-inducing AEDs for treatment of refractory focal epilepsy.