Dr. Zachary Grinspan: Most Commonly Prescribed Drug for Infantile Epilepsy May Also Be Most Effective

Levetiracetam, the most commonly prescribed drug for U.S. infants with epilepsy, may be significantly more effective than the second-choice drug phenobarbital, according to a new study by scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian and 16 other research institutions. The findings provide the first evidence to favor levetiracetam in infants.

The barbiturate phenobarbital has been prescribed since the 1910s to infants with epilepsy but its use has been associated with lower IQ scores in children. Recently, physicians have been prescribing levetiracetam more frequently, as it has fewer side effects and appears to be well tolerated. But this use is off-label since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the medication in 1999 only as an additional therapy for pediatric patients from 1 month of age to 16 years old.

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