Until the early 1990s, a limited number of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) were available. Since then, a large variety of new AEDs have been developed and introduced, several of them offering new modes of action. One of these new AED families is described and reviewed in this article. Levetiracetam (LEV) and brivaracetam (BRV) are pyrrolidone derivate compounds binding at the presynaptic SV2A receptor site and are thus representative of AEDs with a unique mode of action. LEV was extensively investigated in randomized controlled trials and has a very promising efficacy both in focal and generalized epilepsies. Its pharmacokinetic profile is favorable and LEV does not undergo clinically relevant interactions. Adverse reactions comprise mainly asthenia, somnolence, and behavioral symptoms. It has now been established as a first-line antiepileptic drug. BRV has been recently introduced as an adjunct antiepileptic drug in focal epilepsy with a similarly promising pharmacokinetic profile and possibly increased tolerability concerning psychiatric adverse events. This review summarizes the essential preclinical and clinical data of LEV and BRV that is currently available and includes the experiences at a large tertiary referral epilepsy center.
Since the introduction of bromides as the first effective antiepileptic drugs (AEDs),1 chronic AED treatment that consisted of the sustained prevention of epileptic seizures has remained the standard of epilepsy therapy.2 Before to the introduction of the newer generation of AEDs, a limited number of drugs were available that addressed the blockade of sodium channels, acting on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptors, or interacting with calcium channels as the leading modes of action.3 With the introduction of the newer AEDs a heterogeneous group of drugs appeared, some of them offering new mechanisms of action2 including the blockade of GABA aminotransferase (vigabatrin [VGB]), GABA re-uptake from the synaptic cleft (tiagabine [TGB]), the modulation of calcium channels (gabapentin [GBP], pregabalin [PGB]), the selective non-competitive α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolproprionic acid (AMPA) receptor antagonism (perampanel [PER]), and the binding to the presynaptic SV2A receptor site which is the unique mode of action of levetiracetam (LEV) and brivaracetam (BRV), the AEDs this review will cover. The authors will summarize the development of both compounds as derivatives of piracetam, review the currently available preclinical and clinical data, and discuss the question of whether BRV has the potential to be recognized as being superior to LEV and if it can replace it as the standard AED with the main mode of action both AEDs reflect.[…]