Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), including levetiracetam, increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients taking these drugs for any indication. Patients treated with any AED for any indication should be monitored for the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and/or any unusual changes in mood or behavior.
Pooled analyses of 199 placebo-controlled clinical trials (mono- and adjunctive therapy) of 11 different AEDs showed that patients randomized to one of the AEDs had approximately twice the risk (adjusted Relative Risk 1.8, 95% CI:1.2, 2.7) of suicidal thinking or behavior compared to patients randomized to placebo. In these trials, which had a median treatment duration of 12 weeks, the estimated incidence rate of suicidal behavior or ideation among 27,863 AED-treated patients was 0.43%, compared to 0.24% among 16,029 placebo-treated patients, representing an increase of approximately one case of suicidal thinking or behavior for every 530 patients treated. There were four suicides in drug-treated patients in the trials and none in placebo-treated patients, but the number is too small to allow any conclusion about drug effect on suicide.
The increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior with AEDs was observed as early as one week after starting drug treatment with AEDs and persisted for the duration of treatment assessed. Because most trials included in the analysis did not extend beyond 24 weeks, the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior beyond 24 weeks could not be assessed.
The risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior was generally consistent among drugs in the data analyzed. The finding of increased risk with AEDs of varying mechanisms of action and across a range of indications suggests that the risk applies to all AEDs used for any indication. The risk did not vary substantially by age (5 to 100 years) in the clinical trials analyzed. Table 2 shows absolute and relative risk by indication for all evaluated AEDs.
|Indication||Placebo Patients with Events Per 1000 Patients||Drug Patients with Events Per 1000 Patients||Relative Risk : Incidence of Events in Drug Patients / Incidence in Placebo Patients||Risk Difference : Additional Drug Patients with Events Per 1000 Patients|
The relative risk for suicidal thoughts or behavior was higher in clinical trials for epilepsy than in clinical trials for psychiatric or other conditions, but the absolute risk differences were similar for the epilepsy and psychiatric indications.
Anyone considering prescribing levetiracetam or any other AED must balance the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors with the risk of untreated illness. Epilepsy and many other illnesses for which AEDs are prescribed are themselves associated with morbidity and mortality and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Should suicidal thoughts and behavior emerge during treatment, the prescriber needs to consider whether the emergence of these symptoms in any given patient may be related to the illness being treated.
Levetiracetam may cause somnolence and fatigue. Patients should be monitored for these signs and symptoms and advised not to drive or operate machinery until they have gained sufficient experience on levetiracetam to gauge whether it adversely affects their ability to drive or operate machinery.
In controlled trials of adult patients with epilepsy experiencing partial onset seizures, 15% of levetiracetam-treated patients reported somnolence, compared to 8% of placebo-treated patients. There was no clear dose response up to 3000 mg/day. In a study where there was no titration, about 45% of patients receiving 4000 mg/day reported somnolence. The somnolence was considered serious in 0.3% of levetiracetam-treated patients, compared to 0% in the placebo group. About 3% of levetiracetam-treated patients discontinued treatment due to somnolence, compared to 0.7% of placebo-treated patients. In 1.4% of levetiracetam-treated patients and 0.9% of placebo-treated patients, the dose was reduced, while 0.3% of the levetiracetam-treated patients were hospitalized due to somnolence.
In controlled clinical studies of adult patients with epilepsy experiencing partial onset seizures, 15% of levetiracetam-treated patients reported asthenia, compared to 9% of placebo-treated patients. Treatment was discontinued due to asthenia in 0.8% of levetiracetam-treated patients as compared to 0.5% of placebo-treated patients. In 0.5% of levetiracetam-treated patients and in 0.2% of placebo-treated patients, the dose was reduced due to asthenia.
Somnolence and asthenia occurred most frequently within the first 4 weeks of treatment. In general, the incidences of somnolence and fatigue in the pediatric partial onset seizure studies, and in pediatric and adult myoclonic and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizure studies were comparable to those of the adult partial onset seizure studies.
Levetiracetam can cause anaphylaxis or angioedema after the first dose or at any time during treatment. Signs and symptoms in cases reported in the postmarketing setting have included hypotension, hives, rash, respiratory distress, and swelling of the face, lip, mouth, eye, tongue, throat, and feet. In some reported cases, reactions were life-threatening and required emergency treatment. If a patient develops signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis or angioedema, levetiracetam should be discontinued and the patient should seek immediate medical attention. Levetiracetam should be discontinued permanently if a clear alternative etiology for the reaction cannot be established [see CONTRAINDICATIONS (4)].
Serious dermatological reactions, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), have been reported in both pediatric and adult patients treated with levetiracetam. The median time of onset is reported to be 14 to 17 days, but cases have been reported at least four months after initiation of treatment. Recurrence of the serious skin reactions following rechallenge with levetiracetam has also been reported. Levetiracetam should be discontinued at the first sign of a rash, unless the rash is clearly not drug-related. If signs or symptoms suggest SJS/TEN, use of this drug should not be resumed and alternative therapy should be considered.
Levetiracetam may cause coordination difficulties.
In controlled clinical studies in adult patients with partial onset seizure studies, 3.4% of adult levetiracetam-treated patients experienced coordination difficulties, (reported as either ataxia, abnormal gait, or incoordination) compared to 1.6% of placebo-treated patients. A total of 0.4% of patients in controlled clinical studies discontinued levetiracetam treatment due to ataxia, compared to 0% of placebo-treated patients. In 0.7% of levetiracetam-treated patients and in 0.2% of placebo-treated patients, the dose was reduced due to coordination difficulties, while one of the levetiracetam-treated patients was hospitalized due to worsening of pre-existing ataxia. These events occurred most frequently within the first 4 weeks of treatment.
Patients should be monitored for these signs and symptoms and advised not to drive or operate machinery until they have gained sufficient experience on levetiracetam to gauge whether it could adversely affect their ability to drive or operate machinery.
As with most antiepileptic drugs, levetiracetam, should generally be withdrawn gradually because of the risk of increased seizure frequency and status epilepticus. If withdrawal is needed because of a serious adverse reaction, rapid discontinuation can be considered.
Levetiracetam can cause hematologic abnormalities. Hematologic abnormalities occurred in clinical trials and included decreases in white blood cell (WBC), neutrophil, and red blood cell (RBC) counts; decreases in hemoglobin and hematocrit; and increases in eosinophil counts. Cases of agranulocytosis, pancytopenia, and thrombocytopenia have been reported in the postmarketing setting. A complete blood count is recommended in patients experiencing significant weakness, pyrexia, recurrent infections, or coagulation disorders.
Partial — Onset Seizures
Minor, but statistically significant, decreases compared to placebo in total mean RBC count (0.03 x 106 /mm3), mean hemoglobin (0.09 g/dL), and mean hematocrit (0.38%), were seen in levetiracetam-treated patients in controlled trials.
A total of 3.2% of levetiracetam-treated and 1.8% of placebo-treated patients had at least one possibly significant (≤2.8 x 109 /L) decreased WBC, and 2.4% of levetiracetam-treated and 1.4% of placebo-treated patients had at least one possibly significant (≤1.0 x 109 /L) decreased neutrophil count. Of the levetiracetam-treated patients with a low neutrophil count, all but one rose towards or to baseline with continued treatment. No patient was discontinued secondary to low neutrophil counts.
Pediatric Patients 4 Years to < 16 Years:
Statistically significant decreases in WBC and neutrophil counts were seen in levetiracetam-treated patients as compared to placebo. The mean decreases from baseline in the levetiracetam-treated group were -0.4 x 109 /L and — 0.3 x 109 /L, respectively, whereas there were small increases in the placebo group. Mean relative lymphocyte counts increased by 1.7% in levetiracetam-treated patients, compared to a decrease of 4% in placebo patients (statistically significant).
In the controlled trial, more levetiracetam-treated patients had a possibly clinically significant abnormally low WBC value (3% of levetiracetam-treated patients versus 0% of placebo-treated patients), however, there was no apparent difference between treatment groups with respect to neutrophil count (5% of levetiracetam-treated patients versus 4.2% of placebo-treated patients). No patient was discontinued secondary to low WBC or neutrophil counts.
In the controlled cognitive and neuropsychological safety study, 5 patients (8.6%) in the levetiracetam-treated group and two patients (6.1%) in the placebo-treated group had high eosinophil count values that were possibly clinically significant (≥10% or ≥0.7X109 /L).
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