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Levetiracetam

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people with epilepsy. It tells you about levetiracetam, a drug used for epilepsy.

Yes, levetiracetam is likely to reduce the number of seizures you have, if you get partial epilepsy. We don't know whether it works for generalised epilepsy because there hasn't been enough good-quality research.

Levetiracetam is a newer drug for epilepsy. It can be used alone or together with other epilepsy drugs. The brand name is Keppra.

Levetiracetam is likely to reduce the number of seizures you have. In one study comparing levetiracetam with another epilepsy drug, carbamazepine, 67 percent of people who'd taken either drug had no seizures for at least six months.

There haven't been any studies comparing levetiracetam with a placebo (dummy) drug.

Scientists don't know exactly how levetiracetam works. It seems to work in a different way to other anti-epileptic drugs.

Here are the most common side effects for epilepsy drugs.

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling worn out

  • Drowsiness

  • Lack of co-ordination

  • Feeling sick

  • Headaches

  • Confusion, problems thinking clearly and difficulty concentrating

  • Weight change. Topiramate can put you off your food and make you lose weight. Gabapentin can make you put on weight.

Rashes

You need to see your doctor straight away if you or your child gets a rash while taking epilepsy drugs. Although the rash will probably go away, it can develop into a serious (and sometimes fatal) skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Warning signs that the rash is serious are: [8] [3]

  • Raised lumps

  • Flaky skin

  • A swollen face

  • Painful skin

  • Purple blotches

  • Sores on the lips or inside the mouth

  • Asthma symptoms (for example, wheezing and difficulty breathing easily).

Lamotrigine can cause a rash. Starting on a low dose and then gradually increasing the dose can reduce the risk of getting a rash.

Gabapentin, eslicarbazepine, and levetiracetam rarely cause rashes. [8]

Eye problems

About 4 in 10 people taking vigabatrin get problems with their eyesight. These problems don't always get better even when treatment is stopped. Because of this, most specialists don't recommend vigabatrin. [108] If you have to take vigabatrin, your eyes should be tested at least every six months. [12]

Stopping contraceptives working

Some epilepsy drugs can stop the contraceptive pill and contraceptive injections working properly. [81] For more information, see Contraception and epilepsy drugs.

Epilepsy drugs and pregnancy

Epilepsy drugs can cause birth defects. If you're pregnant, your doctor will probably try to control your seizures with just one drug, as taking more than one may increase the risk of birth defects. [109]

To learn more, see Epilepsy and pregnancy.

Self-harm and suicide

There is a very small risk that taking these epilepsy drugs might make you more likely to think about suicide or harming yourself. [69] If you are worried about any thoughts or feelings you have, see your doctor straight away.

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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