Therapy with lamotrigine increases the risk of developing aseptic meningitis. Because of the potential for serious outcomes of untreated meningitis due to other causes, patients should also be evaluated for other causes of meningitis and treated as appropriate.
Postmarketing cases of aseptic meningitis have been reported in pediatric and adult patients taking lamotrigine for various indications. Symptoms upon presentation have included headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and nuchal rigidity. Rash, photophobia, myalgia, chills, altered consciousness, and somnolence were also noted in some cases. Symptoms have been reported to occur within 1 day to one and a half months following the initiation of treatment. In most cases, symptoms were reported to resolve after discontinuation of lamotrigine. Re-exposure resulted in a rapid return of symptoms (from within 30 minutes to 1 day following re-initiation of treatment) that were frequently more severe. Some of the patients treated with lamotrigine who developed aseptic meningitis had underlying diagnoses of systemic lupus erythematosus or other autoimmune diseases.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analyzed at the time of clinical presentation in reported cases was characterized by a mild to moderate pleocytosis, normal glucose levels, and mild to moderate increase in protein. CSF white blood cell count differentials showed a predominance of neutrophils in a majority of the cases, although a predominance of lymphocytes was reported in approximately one third of the cases. Some patients also had new onset of signs and symptoms of involvement of other organs (predominantly hepatic and renal involvement), which may suggest that in these cases the aseptic meningitis observed was part of a hypersensitivity reaction [see Warnings and Precautions (5.2) ].
Medication errors involving lamotrigine have occurred. In particular, the name lamotrigine can be confused with the names of other commonly used medications. Medication errors may also occur between the different formulations of lamotrigine. To reduce the potential of medication errors, write and say lamotrigine clearly. Depictions of the lamotrigine tablets (chewable, dispersible) can be found in the Medication Guide that accompanies the product to highlight the distinctive markings, colors, and shapes that serve to identify the different presentations of the drug and thus may help reduce the risk of medication errors. To avoid the medication error of using the wrong drug or formulation, patients should be strongly advised to visually inspect their tablets to verify that they are lamotrigine, as well as the correct formulation of lamotrigine, each time they fill their prescription.
Some estrogen-containing oral contraceptives have been shown to decrease serum concentrations of lamotrigine [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.3) ]. Dosage adjustments will be necessary in most patients who start or stop estrogen-containing oral contraceptives while taking lamotrigine [see Dosage and Administration (2.1) ]. During the week of inactive hormone preparation (pill-free week) of oral contraceptive therapy, plasma lamotrigine levels are expected to rise, as much as doubling at the end of the week. Adverse reactions consistent with elevated levels of lamotrigine, such as dizziness, ataxia, and diplopia, could occur.
As with other AEDs, lamotrigine should not be abruptly discontinued. In patients with epilepsy there is a possibility of increasing seizure frequency. In clinical trials in adults with bipolar disorder, 2 patients experienced seizures shortly after abrupt withdrawal of lamotrigine. Unless safety concerns require a more rapid withdrawal, the dose of lamotrigine should be tapered over a period of at least 2 weeks (approximately 50% reduction per week) [see Dosage and Administration (2.1) ].
Valid estimates of the incidence of treatment-emergent status epilepticus among patients treated with lamotrigine are difficult to obtain because reporters participating in clinical trials did not all employ identical rules for identifying cases. At a minimum, 7 of 2,343 adult patients had episodes that could unequivocally be described as status epilepticus. In addition, a number of reports of variably defined episodes of seizure exacerbation (e.g., seizure clusters, seizure flurries) were made.
During the premarketing development of lamotrigine, 20 sudden and unexplained deaths were recorded among a cohort of 4,700 patients with epilepsy (5,747 patient-years of exposure).
Some of these could represent seizure-related deaths in which the seizure was not observed, e.g., at night. This represents an incidence of 0.0035 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 death in epilepsy (SUDEP) in patients not receiving lamotrigine (ranging from 0.0005 for the general population of patients with epilepsy, to 0.004 for a recently studied clinical trial population similar to that in the clinical development program for lamotrigine, to 0.005 for patients with refractory epilepsy). Consequently, whether these figures are reassuring or suggest concern depends on the comparability of the populations reported upon with the cohort receiving lamotrigine and the accuracy of the estimates provided. Probably most reassuring is the similarity of estimated SUDEP rates in patients receiving lamotrigine and those receiving other AEDs, chemically unrelated to each other, that underwent clinical testing in similar populations. Importantly, that drug is chemically unrelated to lamotrigine. This evidence suggests, although it certainly does not prove, that the high SUDEP rates reflect population rates, not a drug effect.
Because valproate reduces the clearance of lamotrigine, the dosage of lamotrigine in the presence of valproate is less than half of that required in its absence [see Dosage and Administration (2.2, 2.3, 2.4), Drug Interactions (7)].
Because lamotrigine binds to melanin, it could accumulate in melanin-rich tissues over time. This raises the possibility that lamotrigine may cause toxicity in these tissues after extended use. Although ophthalmological testing was performed in 1 controlled clinical trial, the testing was inadequate to exclude subtle effects or injury occurring after long-term exposure. Moreover, the capacity of available tests to detect potentially adverse consequences, if any, of lamotrigine’s binding to melanin is unknown [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.2) ].
Accordingly, although there are no specific recommendations for periodic ophthalmological monitoring, prescribers should be aware of the possibility of long-term ophthalmologic effects.
False-Positive Drug Test Results
Lamotrigine has been reported to interfere with the assay used in some rapid urine drug screens, which can result in false-positive readings, particularly for phencyclidine (PCP). A more specific analytical method should be used to confirm a positive result.
Plasma Concentrations of Lamotrigine
The value of monitoring plasma concentrations of lamotrigine in patients treated with lamotrigine has not been established. Because of the possible pharmacokinetic interactions between lamotrigine and other drugs, including AEDs (see Table 13), monitoring of the plasma levels of lamotrigine and concomitant drugs may be indicated, particularly during dosage adjustments. In general, clinical judgment should be exercised regarding monitoring of plasma levels of lamotrigine and other drugs and whether or not dosage adjustments are necessary.
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