Pharmacotherapy of Focal Epilepsy in Children: A Systematic Review of Approved Agents

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Partial-onset seizures contribute the bulk of seizure burden in childhood epilepsy. The therapeutic decision making involves consideration of factors specific to drug, patient and socioeconomic situation.


This paper systematically reviews the available efficacy/effectiveness evidence for various anti-epileptic drugs (AED) as monotherapy and adjunctive therapy for partial-onset seizures in children.

Data sources

Relevant randomized clinical trials (RCTs) were identified by a structured PubMed search, supplemented by an additional hand search of reference lists and authors’ files.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods

Eligible studies were reviewed and data extracted into tables. Included RCTs were classified based on accepted published criteria.


Only efficacy and effectiveness outcome measures were evaluated since there is little scientifically rigorous comprehensive AED adverse effects data.


Oxcarbazepine is the only AED with Class I evidence for efficacy/effectiveness as initial monotherapy for partial-onset seizures in children. Carbamazepine, clobazam, lamotrigine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, topiramate, valproate, vigabatrin and zonisamide have, at best, Class III efficacy/effectiveness evidence for monotherapy of partial-onset seizures in children. For adjunctive therapy, gabapentin, lamotrigine, levetiracetam, oxcarbazepine and topiramate have Class I efficacy/effectiveness evidence for treatment of pediatric partial-onset seizures.

Conclusions and implications of key findings

This efficacy/effectiveness analysis must not be used in isolation when selecting therapy. AED selection for a specific child needs to integrate a drug's efficacy/effectiveness data with its safety and tolerability profile, pharmacokinetic properties, available formulations, and patient specific characteristics. It is critical that physicians and patients incorporate all these relevant variables when choosing AED therapy.

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