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Levetiracetam for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
levetiracetam Keppra

Levetiracetam comes in tablet form.

How It Works

It is not known exactly how levetiracetam prevents seizures.

Why It Is Used

Levetiracetam (Keppra) may be used to help control partial seizures in adults. It is usually used with, not instead of, other antiepileptic medicines (add-on, or adjunctive, therapy).

Levetiracetam may also be used alone or in combination with other epilepsy drugs to treat seizures that affect the entire brain (generalized) in adults. Or it may be used alone or in combination with other epilepsy medicines in children who have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or absence seizures.

How Well It Works

Levetiracetam may help control seizures in children who have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and absence seizures.1

Levetiracetam, when taken alone, may also work to control seizures in people who are newly diagnosed with epilepsy.1

Side Effects

Levetiracetam usually causes only mild side effects. The most common ones are:

  • Sleepiness.
  • Dizziness and unsteadiness.
  • Weakness.
  • Mild agitation, anxiety, or depression.

Unlike many of the antiepileptic medicines, levetiracetam is not likely to cause an adverse reaction when used at the same time as other medicines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take antiepileptic medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take antiepileptic medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • Drug interactions. Levetiracetam may be a good choice if you are taking medicines for other conditions, because it does not interact with other medicines. It is also a good choice if you take birth control pills, because it will not make the pills any less effective.
  • Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
  • Other concerns. For some people, levetiracetam may produce side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 26, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 26, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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