Carbamazepine versus phenobarbitone monotherapy for epilepsy: an individual participant data review.

Nolan, SJ ORCID: 0000-0001-9988-2709, Marson, AG ORCID: 0000-0002-6861-8806, Weston, J and Tudur Smith, C ORCID: 0000-0003-3051-1445
(2016) Carbamazepine versus phenobarbitone monotherapy for epilepsy: an individual participant data review. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 12 (12). CD001904-CD001904.

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This is an updated version of the original Cochrane Review, first published in Issue 1, 2003 and updated in 2015. This review is one in a series of Cochrane Reviews investigating pair-wise monotherapy comparisons.Epilepsy is a common neurological condition in which abnormal electrical discharges from the brain cause recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is believed that with effective drug treatment, up to 70% of individuals with active epilepsy have the potential to become seizure-free and go into long-term remission shortly after starting drug therapy with a single antiepileptic drug in monotherapy.Worldwide, carbamazepine and phenobarbitone are commonly used broad-spectrum antiepileptic drugs, suitable for most epileptic seizure types. Carbamazepine is a current first-line treatment for partial onset seizures, and is used in the USA and Europe. Phenobarbitone is no longer considered a first-line treatment because of concerns over associated adverse events, particularly documented behavioural adverse events in children treated with the drug. However, phenobarbitone is still commonly used in low- and middle-income countries because of its low cost. No consistent differences in efficacy have been found between carbamazepine and phenobarbitone in individual trials; however, the confidence intervals generated by these studies are wide, and therefore, synthesising the data of the individual trials may show differences in efficacy.To review the time to withdrawal, remission, and first seizure of carbamazepine compared with phenobarbitone when used as monotherapy in people with partial onset seizures (simple or complex partial and secondarily generalised) or generalised onset tonic-clonic seizures (with or without other generalised seizure types).For the latest update, we searched the following databases on 18 August 2016: the Cochrane Epilepsy Group Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) via the Cochrane Register of Studies Online (CRSO), MEDLINE (Ovid, from 1946), the US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register (, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). Previously we also searched SCOPUS (from 1823) as an alternative to Embase, but this is no longer necessary, because randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs in Embase are now included in CENTRAL. We handsearched relevant journals and contacted pharmaceutical companies, original trial investigators, and experts in the field.RCTs in children or adults with partial onset seizures or generalised onset tonic-clonic seizures with a comparison of carbamazepine monotherapy versus phenobarbitone monotherapy.This was an individual participant data (IPD) review. Our primary outcome was 'time to withdrawal of allocated treatment', and our secondary outcomes were 'time to achieve 12-month remission', 'time to achieve six-month remission', 'time to first seizure post-randomisation', and 'adverse events'. We used Cox proportional hazards regression models to obtain study-specific estimates of hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs), with the generic inverse variance method used to obtain the overall pooled HR and 95% CI.IPD were available for 836 participants out of 1455 eligible individuals from six out of 13 trials; 57% of the potential data. For remission outcomes, HR > 1 indicated an advantage for phenobarbitone, and for first seizure and withdrawal outcomes, HR > 1 indicated an advantage for carbamazepine.The main overall results (pooled HR adjusted for seizure type, 95% CI) were HR 1.50 for time to withdrawal of allocated treatment (95% CI 1.15 to 1.95; P = 0.003); HR 0.93 for time to achieve 12-month remission (95% CI 0.72 to 1.20; P = 0.57); HR 0.99 for time to achieve six-month remission (95% CI 0.80 to 1.23; P = 0.95); and HR 0.87 for time to first seizure (95% CI 0.72 to 1.06; P = 0.18). Results suggest an advantage for carbamazepine over phenobarbitone in terms of time to treatment withdrawal and no statistically significant evidence between the drugs for the other outcomes. We found evidence of a statistically significant interaction between treatment effect and seizure type for time to first seizure recurrence (Chi² test for subgroup differences P = 0.03), where phenobarbitone was favoured for partial onset seizures (HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.96; P = 0.02) and carbamazepine was favoured for generalised onset seizures (HR 1.23, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.77; P = 0.27). We found no evidence of an interaction between treatment effect and seizure type for the other outcomes. However, methodological quality of the included studies was variable, with 10 out of the 13 included studies (4 out of 6 studies contributing IPD) judged at high risk of bias for at least one methodological aspect, leading to variable individual study results, and therefore, heterogeneity in the analyses of this review. We conducted sensitivity analyses to examine the impact of poor methodological aspects, where possible.Overall, we found evidence suggestive of an advantage for carbamazepine in terms of drug effectiveness compared with phenobarbitone (retention of the drug in terms of seizure control and adverse events) and evidence suggestive of an association between treatment effect and seizure type for time to first seizure recurrence (phenobarbitone favoured for partial seizures and carbamazepine favoured for generalised seizures). However, this evidence was judged to be of low quality due to poor methodological quality and the potential impact on individual study results (and therefore variability (heterogeneity) present in the analysis within this review), we encourage caution when interpreting the results of this review and do not advocate that the results of this review alone should be used in choosing between carbamazepine and phenobarbitone. We recommend that future trials should be designed to the highest quality possible with considerations for allocation concealment and masking, choice of population, choice of outcomes and analysis, and presentation of results.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anticonvulsants [therapeutic use], Carbamazepine [therapeutic use], Epilepsies, Partial [drug therapy], Epilepsy, Generalized [drug therapy], Epilepsy, Tonic-Clonic [drug therapy], Phenobarbital [therapeutic use], Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Adult, Child, Humans
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2017 11:37
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:23
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001904.pub3
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