This is an updated version of the Cochrane Review previously published in 2018. Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder characterised by recurrent seizures. Most people with epilepsy have a good prognosis and their seizures are well controlled by a single antiepileptic drug, but up to 30% develop drug-resistant epilepsy, especially people with focal seizures. In this review, we summarised the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of gabapentin, when used as an add-on treatment for drug-resistant focal epilepsy.
To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of gabapentin when used as an add-on treatment for people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy.
For the latest update, we searched the Cochrane Register of Studies (CRS Web) and MEDLINE (Ovid) on 11 August 2020. CRS Web includes randomised or quasi-randomised, controlled trials from PubMed, Embase,, the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and the Specialised Registers of Cochrane Review Groups including Epilepsy. We imposed no language restrictions.
Randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, add-on trials of gabapentin in people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy. We also included trials using an active drug control group or comparing different doses of gabapentin.
Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion and extracted the relevant data. We assessed the following outcomes: seizure frequency, seizure freedom, treatment withdrawal (any reason) and adverse effects. Primary analyses were intention-to-treat. We also undertook sensitivity best-case and worst-case analyses. We estimated summary risk ratios (RR) for each outcome and evaluated dose-response in regression models.
We identified no new studies for this update, therefore, the results and conclusions are unchanged. In the previous update of this review, we combined data from six trials in meta-analyses of 1206 randomised participants. The overall risk ratio (RR) for reduction in seizure frequency of 50% or more compared to placebo was 1.89 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.40 to 2.55; 6 studies, 1206 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Dose regression analysis (for trials in adults) showed increasing efficacy with increasing dose, with 25.3% (95% CI 19.3 to 32.3) of people responding to gabapentin 1800 mg compared to 9.7% on placebo, a 15.5% increase in response rate (95% CI 8.5 to 22.5). The RR for treatment withdrawal compared to placebo was 1.05 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.49; 6 trials, 1206 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Adverse effects were significantly associated with gabapentin compared to placebo. RRs were as follows: ataxia 2.01 (99% CI 0.98 to 4.11; 3 studies, 787 participants; low-certainty evidence), dizziness 2.43 (99% CI 1.44 to 4.12; 6 studies, 1206 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), fatigue 1.95 (99% CI 0.99 to 3.82; 5 studies, 1161 participants; low-certainty evidence) and somnolence 1.93 (99% CI 1.22 to 3.06; 6 studies, 1206 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). There was no evidence of a difference for the adverse effects of headache (RR 0.79, 99% CI 0.46 to 1.35; 6 studies, 1206 participants; moderate-certainty evidence) or nausea (RR 0.95, 99% CI 0.52 to 1.73; 4 trials, 1034 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Overall, the studies were at low to unclear risk of bias due to information on each risk of bias domain not being available. We judged the overall certainty of the evidence (using the GRADE approach) as low to moderate due to potential attrition bias resulting from missing outcome data and imprecise results with wide CIs.
Gabapentin has efficacy as an add-on treatment in people with drug-resistant focal epilepsy, and seems to be fairly well-tolerated. However, the trials reviewed were of relatively short duration and provide no evidence for the long-term efficacy of gabapentin beyond a three-month period. The results cannot be extrapolated to monotherapy or to people with other epilepsy types. Further trials are needed to assess the long-term effects of gabapentin, and to compare gabapentin with other add-on drugs.

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