how long until Keppra starts to work, likelihood Keppra will work for your condition, and Keppra vs. other AntiepilepticDrugs/Anticonvulsants
Copyright, Citing and License information Published online 04 October, 2011
I Forgot Why I Cake Topamax
Two of the most important things to know when deciding on which med is the best for a particular condition1: how likely is it to work and how long will it take.
The odds of a med working for a particular condition and how long it generally takes to work should be fairly easy to nail down, and not need to be summed up by the Internet shorthand YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Aside from it being hard enough to get an accurate diagnosis when brain cooties are involved, why is it so difficult to figure out if Keppra (levetiracetam) is right for you and how long it will take for you to know that?
- Because no one is quite sure exactly what causes various conditions.
- Which is further complicated when everything is a spectrum disorder (e.g. bipolar 1, bipolar 2, all the others they still ignored in DSM-5).
- And they’re never really sure about how Keppra works in the first place.
- Plus, if you have more than one condition for which you’re taking one or more medications to treat, things get really complicated.
- None of which is helped by studies that produce contradictory results and other quirks in The Literature.
Always remember: if your symptoms suddenly get a lot worse, call your doctor immediately. Any drug that makes your symptoms worse is a drug you probably need to stop taking as soon as possible.
We reference a shitload of studies here, so you might want to see our pages on how to deal if a study is legitimate and the tests and methodologies researchers use to measure the efficacy of medications, including during clinical trials to get FDA approval.
How Long Until Keppra (levetiracetam) Starts Working
How Effective Keppra (levetiracetam) is for its Approved Uses
As an add-on, or even as monotherapy for epilepsy, the odds of Keppra working are pretty damn good. In the clinical trials and larger studies it averages out to half the people who take it have their seizures reduced by at least 50%, with about 15% becoming seizure-free. Most of them keep taking it after three years and four years. That’s for both immediate-release Keppra and extended-release Keppra XR.
The numbers on how many people discontinued Keppra due to side effects are the lowest we’ve seen in clinical trials for any med. Seriously. Look at this one. 1.8% of people stopped taking Keppra vs. 4.3% who stopped taking the placebo because the side effects of the placebo sucked too much! So it’s no surprise that Keppra improves your general quality of life.
Where Keppra really shines is for people with refractory (otherwise uncontrollable) epilepsy. They’ve done two big-ass, global Safety of Keppra as Adjunctive Therapy in Epilepsy (SKATE) studies on just that. The results:
- In the first one 50.1% of patients had seizure frequency reduction of >=50%; 15.8% of patients were seizure free;60.4% showed at least moderate improvement.
- In the second one, much smaller one 44.0% of patients had a >=50% reduction in seizure frequency, and 17.7% became seizure free.
In some of the other studies we found on refractory epilepsies:
- In an open-label study of Keppra as an add-on in Korean adults with uncontrolled partial epilepsy The median percent reduction in weekly seizure frequency over the treatment period was 43.2%. The >=50% and >=75% responder rates were 45.4% and 36.1%, respectively. 17 out of 92 patients were seizure-free.
- In this study of people with either partial or generalized epilepsy who were taking two or more other AEDs The 49.4% of people with partial seizures and 51.4% with generalized seizures had a 50% or more reduction in seizure frequency. 26/191 (13.6%) were seizure-free. 10.5% (18/172) were seizure-free for at least 6 months and 6.4% (11/172) were seizure-free for at least 1 year.
- For refractory generalized epilepsies Most patients (68%) reported some improvement in seizure frequency on levetiracetam including 16% who became seizure free.
- In a similar small study with 11 patients using only Keppra and 8 taking Keppra and something else, 13 became seizure-free, and 5 achieved a 50–75% reduction in seizure frequency. No change in seizure frequency was observed in 1 patient.
- Keppra XR as an add-on to one to three AEDs. Thirty-four (43%) Keppra XR and 23 (29.1%) placebo patients experienced >=50% reduction in seizures, with eight (10.1%) taking Keppra XR one (1.3%) getting the placebo becoming seizure-free.
- One of the most difficult to treat types of epilepsy (or any brain cooties) is when it starts young (childhood onset) and isn’t quickly controlled. In this study of the long-term use of Keppra in severe childhood-onset epilepsy Thirty-five patients (27.1%) were initial responders of which 5 became seizure free. After 3 years was 22.5% kept taking Keppra. Those numbers seem low compared with the above studies, but that’s actually really good for this situation.
- You know what really, really sucks when you’re epileptic? Having part of your brain cut out to control your seizures (resection), but it doesn’t work. Once again, Keppra to the rescue! 76.1% (16 of 21) had a reduction in seizures, including 10 (47.6%) patients who became seizure free. Although 3 of those 16 developed severe psychoses 4–9 months later, which is a higher rate than people with a history of crazy. But can you blame them?
In the long-term:
- Following up six months eight years later Keppra (along with whatever else they were taking) was working for 36.1% of people taking it. Of them, 38.6% had at least a 50% reduction in seizures and 20.1% had at least a 75% reduction. Sixty-five (4.6%) patients were seizure-free over their entire treatment period, compared with 167 (11.7%) and 126 (8.9%) during their last 6 and 12 months of follow-up. Ninety-seven (19.8%) of 491 patients who received only one other antiepileptic drug (AED) were seizure-free during their last 6 months. 14.4% (205 patients) reduced the number of meds they took and 5.5% (79 patients) were taking only Keppra.
- As with vanilla epilepsy, Keppra improves your quality of life.
Likelihood Keppra (levetiracetam) will Work for Off-Label Applications
You’d think with so many off-label uses of Keppra, this can go on forever! Actually, it’s not easy to get real numbers for off-label applications.
- Using Keppra by itself (monotherapy) to treat epilepsy is technically off-label. But it’s included in several of the studies and reviews cited above and below. Additionally we have Keppra for generalized epilepsy with myoclonic seizures, and Keppra as monotherapy for people with partial epilepsy. The odds are the same as when using Keppra as an add-on: it averages to about half the people who take it will have the number of seizures they have cut in half, if not more, with around 15% being seizure free.
- If you have seizures caused by brain tumors, especially glioma, you need to be taking Keppra. Response rates are typically high, like 91% seizure free.
- As for everything else, including bipolar disorder, Keppra is your go-to drug if nothing else works.
Medicated For Your Protection
Keppra (levetiracetam) versus Other AntiepilepticDrugs/Anticonvulsants for its Approved Indications
Since Keppra is approved only as an add-on, there aren’t many head-to-head studies that focus purely on efficacy. Most are about side effects.
- Keppra vs. Topamax for long-term treatment of chronic, refractory epilepsies. Two of the best meds for some of the most difficult to treat types of epilepsy. 301 on Keppra and 429 taking Topamax. The results: Keppra sucked less and worked better. After one year was 65.6% of patients were still taking Keppra vs. 51.7% for Topamax-treated patients. At two years it was 45.8% still on Keppra and 38.3% still on Topamax. Adverse events led to drug discontinuation in 21.9% of Topamax-treated patients compared to 6.0% of Keppra-treated patients. The number of patients discontinuing treatment because of lack of efficacy was similar for both groups. Topamax was somewhat better in seizure freedom rates, between 11.6% and 20.0% for Topamax and between 11.1% and 14.3% Keppra LEV per 6-months interval.
- Keppra vs. Topamax for short-term treatment of refractory partial epilepsy. Keppra wins hands down. 61 patients received Keppra and 61 Topamax. During the 15 days of the study 26 people (42.6%) taking Keppra were seizure free compared to 10 (16.4%) taking Topamax.
- IV Keppra vs. Diastat for prolonged, repetitive seizures. Distat is like a Valium suppository, except in gel form, so you have to manually rub it around with your finger up in someone’s butthole. In this study they had to do it more than once with each patient. The results: it’s a tie, but they work a lot better together. I think we can guess which method the people in the hospitals prefer.
- AED geezer cagematch! Tegretol vs. clobazam vs. Neurontin vs. Keppra vs. Lamictal vs. Trileptal vs. Dilantin (phenytoin) vs. Topamax vs. Depakote vs. Zonegran in people 55 or older with a variety of types of epilepsy. The winner: Lamictal, with 79% of people staying on it for one year or longer and 54% seizure-free. Keppra was a close second with 73% staying on it and 43% seizure-free. The same was true even for refractory epilepsy, with 47.4% responding to Lamictal and 38.9% responding to Keppra. The biggest loser: Trileptal, with only 24% staying on and 4% remaining seizure-free.
- Keppra vs. Tegretol vs. Lamictal. This study investigated the risk factors of cardiovascular disease in patients with epilepsy who take different AEDs. The results: Uh, well, Tegretol kind of made things a little worse, especially with women, who gained weight on it and Lamictal due to inactivity. Tegretol also raised total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein in both men and women.
- Keppra vs. Lamictal vs. phenobarbital in people with Alzheimer’s. You know someone is old if they’re taking pheno for epilepsy. The results: a tie! At least when it comes to seizures. Lamictal made them feel better and Keppra helped with the Alzheimer’s symptoms a little, neither of which is surprising.
- Keppra vs. Lamictal - which one gets you more pissed off? Finally, a useful study! The results: a tie. Both in control of partial seizures and improvement of mood and lessening hostility, Keppra works as well as Lamictal.
- Along similar lines, Keppra vs. Topamax, which one makes you crazier? The results: Topamax is somewhat more likely to make you crazier, especially if you become seizure-free. How is being seizure-free related to going batshit crazy? The term is “forced normalization.”
- IV Keppra vs. Dilantin (phenytoin) for seizure prophylaxis after neurological injury. In English: to prevent seizures after something like a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The results: Keppra works a lot better and sucks a lot less than Dilantin (phenytoin), which is the gold standard for TBI-induced epilepsy.
- Of course someone had to compare the costs of Keppra vs. phenytoin for TBI-induced seizures. That’s where phenytoin wins, at $37 a week vs. $480. Unless you have some good insurance, starting with phenytoin is probably the best way to deal with this.
- Keppra XR vs. immediate-release Keppra, which sucks less? For a drug with a side effect profile lower than placebo, this is a tough call. The result: no difference, but what can you expect from a study run by the company that makes Keppra? At least the authors question the methodology.
- Keppra vs. Tegretol. Keppra worked for 78% vs 69% taking Tegretol. But this study was really about the cognitive effects. Which do you think made them less stupid? Executive functions improved in 15% and deteriorated in 5% of patients taking Keppra; the opposite pattern was seen with those taking Tegretol.
- Now this just isn’t fair. Comparing Keppra with Topamax for cognitive side effects. Really?
- 30 patients with focal epilepsy treated with Keppra and 21 patients treated with Topamax. The results: No change with the people taking Keppra, cognitive speed, verbal fluency, and short-term memory all got worse in those taking Topamax.
- 260 people taking Topamax vs. 142 taking Keppra for 18 months. The results: After a year and a half only 46% stayed on Topamax while 61% kept taking their Keppra, and it was intolerable cognitive effects that caused most people to quit taking Topamax.
- However, 40 people taking Topamax vs. 39 taking Keppra after one year. The results: a tie. There was no difference. Not only that, memory improved for some people taking Topamax. This study actually proves something we’ve been saying for years: at the right dosage Topamax can make you brain better.
- AED stupidity cagematch! Depakote vs. Dilantin (phenytoin) vs. Keppra vs. Lamictal vs. Neurontin vs. Tegretol vs. Topamax vs. Trileptal vs. Zonegran in which makes you the stoopidedist. The wiener:
Stupamax DopamaxTopamax, with 21.5% of people reporting intolerable (where they had to stop taking it) cognitive side effects. In second place was Zonegran with 14.9% and in third place was Trileptal with 11.6%. Keppra scored fairly high with 10.4%, but that includes people who were taking Keppra along with one or more other AEDs. When taking only Keppra it had the fewest (no number in the abstract) number of reported cognitive side effects.
- Long-term AED tolerability cagematch. Which AED can more people out of 828 stand for two years? Keppra vs. Lamictal vs. Trileptal vs. Topamax vs. Zonegran. The winner: Lamictal with 74.1%, followed by Zonegran with 60.2%, Triletpal with 58.8%, Keppra with 53.6%, and Topamax with 44.2%. Most were discontinued due to inefficacy (29.5%) and/or sedating (?!) side-effects (20.5%), usually within 6 months. There were the usual drug-specific side effects that caused people to quit as well, like Keppra’s irritability, the Lamictal rash, and the ever-popular kidney stones from Topamax and Zonegran.
- AED rash cagematch. Tegretol vs. clobazam vs. Felbatol (felbamate) vs. Neurontin vs. Lamictal vs. Keppra vs. Trileptal vs. phenobarbital vs. Dilantin (phenytoin) vs. primidone vs. Gabitril vs. Topamax vs. Sabril (vigabatrin) vs. Depakote vs. Zonegran as to which is most likely to cause rashes. Hmmmm, I wonder which one it could be? And the winner is…Dilantin (phenytoin)! Because this study included people who got rashes from another AED. Some of the numbers: phenytoin 5.9% overall, 25.0% in those with another AED rash, Lamictal 4.8% overall, 14.4% with another AED rash, and Tegretol 3.7% overall, 16.5% with another rash.
How Keppra (levetiracetam) Compares with Other Drugs for Off-Label Treatments
- Keppra vs. Dilantin (phenytoin) for glioma (brain tumor)-induced epilepsy. Seventy-six patients were identified, 25 treated with phenytoin and 51 with Keppra. The results: a tie, at least as far as seizure control goes. Keppra sucked a lot less. Plus 36% of the patients taking phenytoin needed dose adjustments unrelated to breakthrough seizures vs. 10% taking Keppra.
- Switching to Keppra vs. staying on Dilantin (phenytoin) after surgery to remove glioma (brain tumors). The results: Keppra worked better and sucked a lot less, except when it came to mood. Each med was just as likely to cause depression, and no one taking phenytoin became emotionally unstable.
- Keppra vs. phenytoin for seizures after supratentorial neurosurgery. Whatever the hell a supratentorial craniotomy is, there’s a good chance of seizures afterwards. As usual Dilantin (phenytoin) is the standard treatment. This study followed 105 people taking Keppra and and 210 taking phenytoin for a year. The usual results: Keppra worked better and sucked a lot less.
- Keppra vs. valproate vs. phenytoin for status epilepticus. Keppra is the only modern AED used to treat status epilepticus - the potentially fatal, never-ending seizure. The first med used is almost always a benzodiazepine, usually Ativan. The results: the valproates win, and Keppra loses, working only about half the time.
- Keppra vs. Valium vs. Benadryl vs. valproic acid vs. placebo: which do junkies like best? I’m not making this up. Valium is the obvious winner with a score of 9 out of 10. Keppra placed second (of actual meds) with a score of 6/10, followed by Benadryl (diphenhydramine) with 5/10 and poor old valproic acid 2/10. Nobody likes valproic acid. The score for the placebo wasn’t given, but it scored higher than Keppra.
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1 Assuming you were correctly diagnosed in the first place.
If you have any questions not answered here, please see the Crazymeds Keppra discussion board. We welcome criticisms of the articles, notifications of bad links, site problems, consumer experiences with medications, etc. I’m not always able to write back. Hence I never answer questions about meds via e-mail that are answered by this or other articles. Especially if they have been repeatedly asked on the forum. That’s why we write these damn things. Questions about which meds are best for your condition should also be asked on the forum; because this is a free site, so the price of admission is making things easier for somebody else searching for the same answer. We don’t deal with children on the forum or in private because after doing this for ten years I don’t have the emotional stamina to deal with kids who have brain cooties. How to contact Crazymeds. — Jerod Poore, CME, Publisher Crazymeds (crazymeds.net)
|Last modified on Sunday, 23 February, 2014 at 16:22:09 by JerodPoore||Page Authors , Jerod Poore||Date created Tuesday, 04 October 2011 at 11:12:28|
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Almost all of the material on this site is by Jerod Poore and is copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Jerod Poore. Except, of course, the PI sheets - those are the property of the drug companies who developed the drugs the sheets are about - and any documents that are written by other people which may be posted to this site will remain the property of the original authors. You cannot reproduce this page or any other material on this site outside of the boundaries of fair use copying without the express permission of the copyright holder. That’s usually me, so just ask first. That means if want to print out a few pages to take to your doctor, therapist, counselor, support group, non-understanding family members or something like that - then that’s OK to just do. Go for it! Please. As long as you include this copyright notice and something along the lines of following disclaimer, I’m usually cool with it.
All rights reserved. No warranty is expressed or implied in this information. Consult one or more doctors and/or pharmacists before taking, or changing how you take any neurological and/or psychiatric medication. Your mileage may vary. What happened to us won’t necessarily happen to you. If you still have questions about a medication or condition that were not answered on any of the pages you read, please ask them on Crazy Talk: the Crazymeds Forum.
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All information on this site has been obtained from the medications’ product information / summary of product characteristic (PI/SPC) sheets and/or medication guides - which is all you get from sites like WebMD, RxList,
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1 While there are plenty of books to help you with hypochondria, for some reason there’s not much in the way of websites. Then again, staying off of the Internet is a large part of curing/managing the disorder.
2 Remember kids, Microsloth operating systems are like TOS Star Trek movies with in that every other one sucks way, way more. With TOS Star Trek movies you don’t want to bother watching the odd-numbered ones. With Microsloth OS you don’t want to buy and install the even-numbered ones. Anyone who remembers ME and Vista knows what I mean.
3 Have I mentioned how open source operating systems for commercial applications is one of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas?* I don’t even need my big-ass rant any more. Heartbleed has made my case for me. And that’s just the one that got all the media attention. The very nature of an open source operating system makes security as much of an illusion as anonymity on teh Intergoogles. Before you flip out too much: the domain Crazymeds is hosted on uses a version of SSL that is not affected by the Heartbleed bug. That’s one of the many reasons why I pay a lot of money and keep this site on Lunarpages.
* Yes, I know I’m using open source browsers. I also test the site using the now-defunct IE and Safari browsers. Their popularity - and superiority - killed IE and Safari, so that’s why I rely on the open source browsers. It’s like brand vs. generic meds. Sometimes the generic is better than the brand.