The FDA has approved a novel antiepileptic agent – topiramate (Topamax/Ortho-McNeil)-for the adjunctive treatment of adults with partial-onset seizures. Topiramate was identified by scientists at the National Institutes of Health during random screening of promising drug candidates, and was developed by the R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute. The drug blocks voltage-sensitive sodium channels, enhances the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and blocks the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. It also inhibits carbonic anhydrase, although this may not contribute to anticonvulsant activity.
In five placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials, topiramate significantly reduced the frequency of epileptic seizures, including refractory partial seizures. In dosage studies- topiramate given at 200, 400, 600, 800, and 1,000 mg per day-the 200-mg dose gave inconsistent results, and increasing the dose beyond 400 mg per day did not increase efficacy. One trial included 45 patients who received 400 mg/day; 44% responded with at least a 50% reduction in seizure frequency, compared with baseline. In a second trial, 35% of 23 patients who received the 400-mg/day dose showed a 50% reduction in seizure rate. By comparison, 24% of patients receiving the 200-mg/day dose showed a seizure reduction rate of about 27%, and approximately 36 to 46% of patients responded to 600, 800, and 1,000 mg/day with a 36 to 46% reduction in seizure rates (response generally decreased as the dosage was increased). Placebo patients showed little or no response, and often showed increases in seizure frequency. Based on overall clinical results, topiramate appears to be a more potent anticonvulsant than Warner Lambert’s gabapentin (with response rates of 22-26%) and GlaxoWellcome’s lamotrigine (seizure reduction, 25-36%).
Topiramate is given 50 mg/day initially, with a gradual increase during an 8-week titration period to a total of 400 mg/day in two divided doses. Oral bioavailability is about 80%, and food has no clinically significant effect on absorption. At dosages of 200 to 800 mg, serum concentrations are linearly dose related and there is not much intersubject variability. Plasma protein binding is less than 20%. Single-dose studies in healthy adults have revealed that the drug is about 20% metabolized, but with multiple dosing in patients taking other antiepileptic drugs, up to 50% of the dose is metabolized. Elimination is primarily renal, with 50 to 80% of the dose excreted as unchanged topiramate; elimination half-life is 20 to 30 hours. Age, gender, race, baseline seizure rate, and concomitant antiepileptic drugs do not appear to affect efficacy, although topiramate may interact with phenytoin (Dilantin/Warner Lambert) and carbamazepine (Tegretol/Novartis). Addition of topiramate to a regimen that includes phenytoin may require adjustment of the phenytoin dose; addition or withdrawal of phenytoin and/or carbamazepine to the topiramate regimen may require adjustment of the dose of topiramate.
At the 200- to 400-mg dose range, the most frequent adverse effects in clinical trials were psychomotor slowing (incidence about 17%), difficulty concentrating (8%), speech and language problems (about 6%), somnolence (30%), and fatigue (11-12%). These reactions were generally dose related. Similar side effects (although less frequent) were seen with lamotrigine and gabapentin. During clinical studies, 1.5% of topiramate-treated patients developed kidney stones, which represents a two- to fourfold increase over the normal rate of stone formation. This may be due to carbonic anhydrase inhibition, and is managed by increasing fluid intake. Another side effect thought to be related to carbonic anhydrase inhibition is paresthesia. Use of topiramate with other carbonic anhydrase inhibitors should be avoided. Approximately 11% of patients withdrew from clinical trials because of adverse events, primarily central nervous system (CNS) effects, paresthesias, and, at higher dosages, anorexia and weight loss.
Although topiramate has been approved only for adults, Johnson & Johnson is studying the drug in pediatric patients with epileptic disorders, including generalized seizures and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.