Antiepileptic drugs should not be abruptly discontinued because of the possibility of increasing seizure frequency.
In the placebo-controlled epilepsy studies in patients >12 years of age, the incidence of status epilepticus in patients receiving gabapentin was 0.6% (3 of 543) versus 0.5% in patients receiving placebo (2 of 378). Among the 2074 patients >12 years of age treated with gabapentin across all epilepsy studies (controlled and uncontrolled), 31 (1.5%) had status epilepticus. Of these, 14 patients had no prior history of status epilepticus either before treatment or while on other medications. Because adequate historical data are not available, it is impossible to say whether or not treatment with gabapentin is associated with a higher or lower rate of status epilepticus than would be expected to occur in a similar population not treated with gabapentin.
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), including gabapentin, increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients taking these drugs for any indication. Patients treated with any AED for any indication should be monitored for the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and/or any unusual changes in mood or behavior.
Pooled analyses of 199 placebo-controlled clinical trials (mono-and adjunctive therapy) of 11 different AEDs showed that patients randomized to one of the AEDs had approximately twice the risk (adjusted Relative Risk 1.8, 95% CI:1.2, 2.7) of suicidal thinking or behavior compared to patients randomized to placebo. In these trials, which had a median treatment duration of 12 weeks, the estimated incidence rate of suicidal behavior or ideation among 27,863 AED-treated patients was 0.43%, compared to 0.24% among 16,029 placebo-treated patients, representing an increase of approximately one case of suicidal thinking or behavior for every 530 patients treated. There were four suicides in drug-treated patients in the trials and none in placebo-treated patients, but the number is too small to allow any conclusion about drug effect on suicide.
The increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior with AEDs was observed as early as one week after starting drug treatment with AEDs and persisted for the duration of treatment assessed. Because most trials included in the analysis did not extend beyond 24 weeks, the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior beyond 24 weeks could not be assessed.
The risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior was generally consistent among drugs in the data analyzed. The finding of increased risk with AEDs of varying mechanisms of action and across a range of indications suggests that the risk applies to all AEDs used for any indication. The risk did not vary substantially by age (5-100 years) in the clinical trials analyzed. Table 2 shows absolute and relative risk by indication for all evaluated AEDs.
The relative risk for suicidal thoughts or behavior was higher in clinical trials for epilepsy than in clinical trials for psychiatric or other conditions, but the absolute risk differences were similar for the epilepsy and psychiatric indications.
Anyone considering prescribing gabapentin or any other AED must balance the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior with the risk of untreated illness. Epilepsy and many other illnesses for which AEDs are prescribed are themselves associated with morbidity and mortality and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Should suicidal thoughts and behavior emerge during treatment, the prescriber needs to consider whether the emergence of these symptoms in any given patient may be related to the illness being treated.
Patients, their caregivers, and families should be informed that AEDs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior and should be advised of the need to be alert for the emergence or worsening of the signs and symptoms of depression, any unusual changes in mood or behavior, or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, behavior, or thoughts about self-harm. Behaviors of concern should be reported immediately to healthcare providers.
There is evidence from case reports, human studies, and animal studies associating gabapentin with serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression when co-administered with CNS depressants, including opioids, or in the setting of underlying respiratory impairment. When the decision is made to co-prescribe gabapentin with another CNS depressant, particularly an opioid, or to prescribe gabapentin to patients with underlying respiratory impairment, monitor patients for symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation, and consider initiating gabapentin at a low dose. The management of respiratory depression may include close observation, supportive measures, and reduction or withdrawal of CNS depressants (including gabapentin).
Gabapentin use in pediatric patients with epilepsy 3 to 12 years of age is associated with the occurrence of CNS related adverse reactions. The most significant of these can be classified into the following categories: 1) emotional lability (primarily behavioral problems), 2) hostility, including aggressive behaviors, 3) thought disorder, including concentration problems and change in school performance, and 4) hyperkinesia (primarily restlessness and hyperactivity). Among the gabapentin-treated patients, most of the reactions were mild to moderate in intensity.
In controlled clinical epilepsy trials in pediatric patients 3 to 12 years of age, the incidence of these adverse reactions was: emotional lability 6% (gabapentin-treated patients) versus 1.3% (placebo-treated patients); hostility 5.2% versus 1.3%; hyperkinesia 4.7% versus 2.9%; and thought disorder 1.7% versus 0%. One of these reactions, a report of hostility, was considered serious. Discontinuation of gabapentin treatment occurred in 1.3% of patients reporting emotional lability and hyperkinesia and 0.9% of gabapentin-treated patients reporting hostility and thought disorder. One placebo-treated patient (0.4%) withdrew due to emotional lability.
In an oral carcinogenicity study, gabapentin increased the incidence of pancreatic acinar cell tumors in rats [see Nonclinical Toxicology (13.1)]. The clinical significance of this finding is unknown. Clinical experience during gabapentin’s premarketing development provides no direct means to assess its potential for inducing tumors in humans.
In clinical studies in adjunctive therapy in epilepsy comprising 2,085 patient-years of exposure in patients >12 years of age, new tumors were reported in 10 patients (2 breast, 3 brain, 2 lung, 1 adrenal, 1 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 1 endometrial carcinoma in situ), and preexisting tumors worsened in 11 patients (9 brain, 1 breast, 1 prostate) during or up to 2 years following discontinuation of gabapentin. Without knowledge of the background incidence and recurrence in a similar population not treated with gabapentin, it is impossible to know whether the incidence seen in this cohort is or is not affected by treatment.
During the course of premarketing development of gabapentin, 8 sudden and unexplained deaths were recorded among a cohort of 2203 epilepsy patients treated (2103 patient-years of exposure) with gabapentin.
Some of these could represent seizure-related deaths in which the seizure was not observed, e.g., at night. This represents an incidence of 0.0038 deaths per patient-year. Although this rate exceeds that expected in a healthy population matched for age and sex, it is within the range of estimates for the incidence of sudden unexplained deaths in patients with epilepsy not receiving gabapentin (ranging from 0.0005 for the general population of epileptics to 0.003 for a clinical trial population similar to that in the gabapentin program, to 0.005 for patients with refractory epilepsy). Consequently, whether these figures are reassuring or raise further concern depends on comparability of the populations reported upon to the gabapentin cohort and the accuracy of the estimates provided.
The following serious adverse reactions are discussed in greater detail in other sections:
- Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms (DRESS)/Multiorgan Hypersensitivity [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1)]
- Anaphylaxis and Angioedema [see Warnings and Precautions (5.2)]
- Somnolence/Sedation and Dizziness [see Warnings and Precautions (5.4)]
- Withdrawal Precipitated Seizure, Status Epilepticus [see Warnings and Precautions (5.5)]
- Suicidal Behavior and Ideation [see Warnings and Precautions (5.6)]
- Respiratory Depression [see Warnings and Precautions (5.7)]
- Neuropsychiatric Adverse Reactions (Pediatric Patients 3 to 12 Years of Age) [see Warnings and Precautions (5.8)]
- Sudden and Unexplained Death in Patients with Epilepsy [see Warnings and Precautions (5.10)]
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