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Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder involving repeated, spontaneous seizures caused by abnormally excited neuronal activity in the brain. The drugs used in the treatment of epileptic seizures are called anti-epileptic agents or anti-convulsants.
Normal brain activity is promoted by a balance between excitatory and inhibitory neuronal circuits. Seizure activity, denoted by repetitous and synchronous firing of neurones, can occur when equilibrium is disrupted. Two mechanisms which naturally preserve the stability of normal neuronal functioning include surround inhibition(Activating GABAergic neurons) and a refractory period in the readiness of sodium channels to respond to excitatory post-synaptic potentials. The second mechanism acts at a cellular level( through voltage gated channels).
When brain's normal electrical activity is disrupted by overactive electrical discharges, causing temporary communication problem between nerve cells leads to jerking or thrashing one or more part of the body, or experience unusual feelings or sensations.
-Stabilize membrane and prevent depolarization by action on ion channels
-Increase GABAergic transmission
-Decrease EAA transmission
Classification of anti-epileptic drugs by Mechanism of action:
Action on ion channels
Enhance GABA transmission
Inhibit EAA transmission
For general tonic-clonic and partial seizures
For Absence seizures
Most effective in myoclonic but also in tonic-clonic and partial seizures
Clonazepam: For Absence seizures
Many studies investigated the use of anti-epileptic drugs in several neurological diseases other than epilepsy. These neurological disorders involve neuronal excitability through the modulation of ion channels, receptors and intracellular signaling pathways.
Drugs such as Carbamazepine, gabapentin, lamotrigine, and valproate are written by psychiatrists to treat behavioural disorders. There are few randomize trials on behavioural effects of anti-epileptic drugs. However, anti-epileptic drugs are used to treat a wide spectrum of other behavioural disorders ranging from depression to binge eating. Their growing off-label use in psychiatric disorders other than epilepsy is potentially dangerous. In many cases, these drugs are used without clear evidence that they have beneficial effects.
Anti-epileptic drugs like carbamazepine in psychiatric disorders and valproate in headache drove clinical trial to explore the effectiveness of anti-epileptic drugs in a variety of non-epilepsy indications. The interest grew in the use of the newer medications in a host of non-epilepsy indications with approval of anti-epileptic drug in the 1990s. Over the last two decades, evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of anti-epileptic drugs in many mood disorders, pain syndromes, and headache.
Psychotropic effects of anti-epileptic drugs:
Anxiety, Mood stabilizing, Sleep
Aggression, Mania, Mood stabilizing
Anxiety, Insomnia, Social Phobia, Mood stabilizing
Mania, Mood stabilizing
Mania, Mood stabilizing
Binge eating, Mania, Mood stabilizing
Agitation, Aggression, Irritability, Mania, Mood stabilizing
Mania and the prophylaxis of bipolar disorder, especially mixed states and lithium non-responders.
In schizophrenia, as adjuncts to clozapine when the latter causes fits in therapeutic doses.
Prophylaxis of migraine.
Valproate is effective in a proportion of patients with mania, including non-responders to anti-psychotic drugs and lithium. Patients who respond to valproate do not necessarily respond to carbamazepine and vice versa. 59% of patients on valproate improved compared to only 16% of those on placebo. Most of the improvement occurred within 1-4 days of achieving therapeutic levels. Valproate is effective in rapid-cycling mania than patients with mania, and equally effective in the patients with previously judged responders or non-responders to lithium. Subsequent analyses indicate that patients with mixed affective states may benefit more from valproate than from lithium. The place of valproate in routine practice seems likely to be in combination with anti-psychotic drugs in mania, perhaps particularly in patients with a significant mixture of depressive symptoms, and prophylaxis.
Valproate has been studied less conclusively in prophylaxis but it may be used alone or as an adjunct in those who are resistant to lithium or carbamazepine.
Valproate is thought to increase the function of the inhibitory transmitter GABA; there is little direct evidence for increase GABA levels but GABA-B receptors may be up-regulated by valproate. The drug may also enhance central serotonin activity, and may reduce adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol levels.
Valproate is generally well tolerated, but side-effects include vomiting, tremor, ataxia, weight gain, rash, hair loss.
Carbamazepine: Carbamazepine is dibenzazepine derivatives with a tricyclic structure.
The prophylaxis of bipolar disorders
As an adjuncts in depressive illness
For reduction of aggression, an adjunct to anti-psychotic drugs in schizophrenia.
There have been several comparative trials with anti-psychotic drugs or lithium. These suggest that 50-60% patients show a good response to carbamazepine.
Carbamazepine reduces L-type calcium channel activation by depolarization, and may block the excitatory transmitter glutamate at NMDA type receptors. It potentiates central 5-HT transmission in normal subjects, as judged by the prolactin response to L-tryptophan.
Most side-effects are dose-related and reversible. Treatment should be initiated at low dose and gradually increased to allow tolerance to develop. The use of slow-released preparations, which can be given twice daily, can help to reduce side-effects.
The most common side-effects are nausea, dizziness, ataxia and diplopia. Other common side-effects include headache, drowsiness and nystagmus.
A maculopapular itchy rash develops within 2 weeks in up to 15% of patients, this requires great caution and usually cessation of the drug. This allergic side-effect seems more likely to occur if the dose is raised too quickly.
Serious side-effects are agranulocytosis, aplastic anaemia, and stevens-johnson syndrome. A moderate leucopenia occurs in 1-2% of patients, and often transiently at the start of the treatment. Agranulocytosis and aplastic anaemia can develop suddenly, and occur in about eight patients per million treated.
It has anti-depressant effects in both unipolar and bipolar depression. It has proved effective in rapid cycling bipolar-II disorders, perhaps by virtue of anti-depressant effect. Its efficacy in the prophylaxis of bipolar-I disorder is promising, particularly in preventing depression.
It blocks fast sodium channels, thereby reducing the size of action potentials in nerve fibres, particularly during repetitive firing. It has also profound effects in reducing calcium currents. These actions are thought to reduce the release of neurotransmitters, especially the excitatory transmitter glutamate.
It is generally well tolerated, without weight gain or cognitive impairment. The commonest side-effects are headache, nausea, diplopia, ataxia, and dizziness.
Gabapentin is an anti drug used for the treatment of epileptic seizures. Gabapentin also provides an analgesic effect which gives rise to its use in the treatment of neuropathic pain. It is structurally related to the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid). The actual mechanism of action by which Gabapentin acts in the brain to control seizures and treat pain is not fully understood.
The effects of various barbiturates are generally similar, differing primarily in potency and duration of action. Barbiturates are used clinically for range of indication other than seizure disorders, including the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and as muscle relaxants and anaesthetic agents. It is responsible for inhibiting K+ channel function leads to increases in neuronal excitability. All barbiturates possess the properties of CNS depressants. Thus, in moderate doses, they produce a drunken euphoric state. Sedation and sleep are produced by increased doses, and higher doses produce surgical anesthesia.
It causes drowsiness and dizziness. Other side-effects may include stomach upset, headache, weakness, grogginess or dreaming.
It has been used to treat ulcers, epidermolysis bullosa, and inflammatory conditions. It has ability to inhibit collagenase due to its mechanism.
Researchers suggested that phenytoin is effective at cellular level. In some patients, levels of collagenase and epidermolysis increased. Thus phenytoin theoretically stabilizes collagen fibrils and decrease blister formation. 
Some studied also suggested that phenytoin is also used in treatment of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa by reducing its blister count.
Phenytoin has been studied in the healing of pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, diabetic ulcers, traumatic wounds, and burns.. Phenytoin promotes wound healing through multiple mechanisms which include stimulation of fibroblast proliferation, facilitation of collagen deposition, glucocorticoid antagonism and anti-bacterial activity.
Phenytoin has been used to treat a variety of collagen vascular diseases, genetic, and inflammatory conditions. It has been used in the treatment of discoid lupus erythematosus, but its effects was not confirmed in an evidence-based analysis.. It can be used to treat the painful tonic-dystonic spasms in Sjogren syndrome.
Topiramate is only approved for the treatment of people with seizures. There are few systematic studies that establish the safety or efficacy of topiramate as a treatment for people with mood disorders, or eating disorders while such studies are underway, what is currently known about the use of topiramate for the control of mood disorders and eating disorders comes mostly from uncontrolled case reports.
Topiramate is very effective and well tolerated in short term treatment of obesity which is related to binge eating disorders. . In study, it had been demonstrated that topiramate effects significantly highly reduction in binge frequency, binge day frequency, body mass index, and weight than placebo.
Topiramate may represent a valuable alternative to existing mood stabilizers, either as an adjunct or as monotherapy in patients with bipolar or schizoaffective disorders. Preliminary findings provide support for a modest efficacy of topiramate, especially as monotherapy, in the treatment of acute mania..
The safety and efficacy of topiramate in obese patients have been investigated in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.. Topiramate clinically significantly decrease weight over 1 year treatment.Improvements were also observed in blood pressure and glucose tolerance.
Topiramate acts on neuronal transmission by following several ways:
By modulating voltage-gated sodium ion channels
Potentiating gamma-aminobutyric acid inhibition
Blocking excitatory glutamate neurotransmission, modulating voltage-gated calcium ion channels, and
By inhibiting carbonic anhydrase, particularly isozymes II and IV.
Symptoms of overdose include abdominal pain, agitation, blurred vision, convulsions, depression, dizziness, double vision, drowsiness, impaired coordination, impaired mental activity, low blood pressure, reduced consciousness, severe diarrhea, sluggishness, and speech problems.
Limitations to the use of Anti-epileptic drugs:
Adverse effects and drug interactions contribute to treatment failure and reduced quality of life and thus can limit the utility of anti-epileptic drugs in clinical practice.
In general, it can cause adverse effects includes sedation, dizziness, ataxia, fatigue, tremor, dysarthria, paraesthesia, memory impairment, impaired attention, confusion, euphoric mood, irritability, blurred vision and diplopia.
Recently, the FDA reported that there is an increased risk of suicidality in patients taking Anti-epileptic drugs. Previouse clinical trial study has found a risk of 0.4% for suicide attempts in patients taking anti-epileptic drugs compared with 0.2% risk in those taking placebo.