Levetiracetam (Page 5 of 8)

10.3 Hemodialysis

Standard hemodialysis procedures result in significant clearance of levetiracetam (approximately 50% in 4 hours) and should be considered in cases of overdose. Although hemodialysis has not been performed in the few known cases of overdose, it may be indicated by the patient’s clinical state or in patients with significant renal impairment.


Levetiracetam injection is an antiepileptic drug available as a clear, colorless, sterile solution (100 mg/mL) for intravenous administration.

The chemical name of levetiracetam, a single enantiomer, is (-)-(S)-α-ethyl-2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide, its molecular formula is C 8 H 14 N 2 O 2 and its molecular weight is 170.21. Levetiracetam is chemically unrelated to existing antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). It has the following structural formula:

Chemical Structure

Levetiracetam is a white to off-white crystalline powder with a faint odor and a bitter taste. It is very soluble in water (104.0 g/100 mL). It is freely soluble in chloroform (65.3 g/100 mL) and in methanol (53.6 g/100 mL), soluble in ethanol (16.5 g/100 mL), sparingly soluble in acetonitrile (5.7 g/100 mL) and practically insoluble in n-hexane. (Solubility limits are expressed as g/100 mL solvent.)

Levetiracetam injection contains 100 mg of levetiracetam per mL. It is supplied in single-use 5 mL vials containing 500 mg levetiracetam, water for injection, 45 mg sodium chloride, and buffered at approximately pH 5.5 with glacial acetic acid and 8.2 mg sodium acetate trihydrate. Levetiracetam injection must be diluted prior to intravenous infusion [ see Dosage and Administration (2.6) ].


12.1 Mechanism of Action

The precise mechanism(s) by which levetiracetam exerts its antiepileptic effect is unknown. The antiepileptic activity of levetiracetam was assessed in a number of animal models of epileptic seizures. Levetiracetam did not inhibit single seizures induced by maximal stimulation with electrical current or different chemoconvulsants and showed only minimal activity in submaximal stimulation and in threshold tests. Protection was observed, however, against secondarily generalized activity from focal seizures induced by pilocarpine and kainic acid, two chemoconvulsants that induce seizures that mimic some features of human complex partial seizures with secondary generalization. Levetiracetam also displayed inhibitory properties in the kindling model in rats, another model of human complex partial seizures, both during kindling development and in the fully kindled state. The predictive value of these animal models for specific types of human epilepsy is uncertain.

In vitro and in vivo recordings of epileptiform activity from the hippocampus have shown that levetiracetam inhibits burst firing without affecting normal neuronal excitability, suggesting that levetiracetam may selectively prevent hypersynchronization of epileptiform burst firing and propagation of seizure activity.

Levetiracetam at concentrations of up to 10 µM did not demonstrate binding affinity for a variety of known receptors, such as those associated with benzodiazepines, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), glycine, NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate), re-uptake sites, and second messenger systems. Furthermore, in vitro studies have failed to find an effect of levetiracetam on neuronal voltage-gated sodium or T-type calcium currents and levetiracetam does not appear to directly facilitate GABAergic neurotransmission. However, in vitro studies have demonstrated that levetiracetam opposes the activity of negative modulators of GABA- and glycine-gated currents and partially inhibits N-type calcium currents in neuronal cells.

A saturable and stereoselective neuronal binding site in rat brain tissue has been described for levetiracetam. Experimental data indicate that this binding site is the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, thought to be involved in the regulation of vesicle exocytosis. Although the molecular significance of levetiracetam binding to synaptic vesicle protein SV2A is not understood, levetiracetam and related analogs showed a rank order of affinity for SV2A which correlated with the potency of their antiseizure activity in audiogenic seizure-prone mice. These findings suggest that the interaction of levetiracetam with the SV2A protein may contribute to the antiepileptic mechanism of action of the drug.

12.2 Pharmacodynamics

Effects on QTc Interval

The effect of levetiracetam on QTc prolongation was evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, positive-controlled (moxifloxacin 400 mg) and placebo-controlled crossover study of levetiracetam (1,000 mg or 5,000 mg) in 52 healthy subjects. The upper bound of the 90% confidence interval for the largest placebo-adjusted, baseline-corrected QTc was below 10 milliseconds. Therefore, there was no evidence of significant QTc prolongation in this study.

12.3 Pharmacokinetics

Equivalent doses of intravenous (IV) levetiracetam and oral levetiracetam result in equivalent C max , C min , and total systemic exposure to levetiracetam when the IV levetiracetam is administered as a 15-minute infusion.

The pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam have been studied in healthy adult subjects, adults and pediatric patients with epilepsy, elderly subjects, and subjects with renal and hepatic impairment.


Levetiracetam is rapidly and almost completely absorbed after oral administration. Levetiracetam injection and tablets are bioequivalent. The pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam are linear and time-invariant, with low intra- and inter-subject variability. Levetiracetam is not significantly protein-bound (<10% bound) and its volume of distribution is close to the volume of intracellular and extracellular water. Sixty-six percent (66%) of the dose is renally excreted unchanged. The major metabolic pathway of levetiracetam (24% of dose) is an enzymatic hydrolysis of the acetamide group. It is not liver cytochrome P450 dependent. The metabolites have no known pharmacological activity and are renally excreted. Plasma half-life of levetiracetam across studies is approximately 6-8 hours. It is increased in the elderly (primarily due to impaired renal clearance) and in subjects with renal impairment.


The equivalence of levetiracetam injection and the oral formulation was demonstrated in a bioavailability study of 17 healthy volunteers. In this study, levetiracetam 1,500 mg was diluted in 100 mL 0.9% sterile saline solution and was infused over 15 minutes. The selected infusion rate provided plasma concentrations of levetiracetam at the end of the infusion period similar to those achieved at T max after an equivalent oral dose. It is demonstrated that levetiracetam 1,500 mg intravenous infusion is equivalent to levetiracetam 3 × 500 mg oral tablets. The time independent pharmacokinetic profile of levetiracetam was demonstrated following 1,500 mg intravenous infusion for 4 days with BID dosing. The AUC (0-12) at steady-state was equivalent to AUC inf following an equivalent single dose.

Levetiracetam and its major metabolite are less than 10% bound to plasma proteins; clinically significant interactions with other drugs through competition for protein binding sites are therefore unlikely.


Levetiracetam is not extensively metabolized in humans. The major metabolic pathway is the enzymatic hydrolysis of the acetamide group, which produces the carboxylic acid metabolite, ucb L057 (24% of dose) and is not dependent on any liver cytochrome P450 isoenzymes. The major metabolite is inactive in animal seizure models. Two minor metabolites were identified as the product of hydroxylation of the 2-oxo-pyrrolidine ring (2% of dose) and opening of the 2-oxo-pyrrolidine ring in position 5 (1% of dose). There is no enantiomeric interconversion of levetiracetam or its major metabolite.


Levetiracetam plasma half-life in adults is 7 ± 1 hour and is unaffected by either dose, route of administration or repeated administration. Levetiracetam is eliminated from the systemic circulation by renal excretion as unchanged drug which represents 66% of administered dose. The total body clearance is 0.96 mL/min/kg and the renal clearance is 0.6 mL/min/kg. The mechanism of excretion is glomerular filtration with subsequent partial tubular reabsorption. The metabolite ucb L057 is excreted by glomerular filtration and active tubular secretion with a renal clearance of 4 mL/min/kg. Levetiracetam elimination is correlated to creatinine clearance. Levetiracetam clearance is reduced in patients with renal impairment [ see Dosage and Administration (2.6) and Use in Specific Populations (8.6)].

Specific Populations


Pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam were evaluated in 16 elderly subjects (age 61-88 years) with creatinine clearance ranging from 30 to 74 mL/min. Following oral administration of twice-daily dosing for 10 days, total body clearance decreased by 38% and the half-life was 2.5 hours longer in the elderly compared to healthy adults. This is most likely due to the decrease in renal function in these subjects.

Pediatric Patients

  • Intravenous Formulation

    A population pharmacokinetic analysis for the intravenous formulation was conducted in 49 pediatric patients (1 month to < 16 years of age) weighing 3-79 kg. Patients received levetiracetam as a 15-minute IV infusion at doses between 14 mg/kg/day and 60 mg/kg/day twice daily. Plasma concentrations and model derived steady-state exposure AUC (0-12) were within the range of the exposure observed in pediatric patients receiving equivalent doses of the oral solution.

  • Oral Formulations

    Pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam were evaluated in 24 pediatric patients (age 6-12 years) after single oral dose (20 mg/kg) of the immediate release formulation of levetiracetam. The body weight adjusted apparent clearance of levetiracetam was approximately 40% higher than in adults.

    A repeat dose pharmacokinetic study was conducted in pediatric patients (age 4-12 years) at doses of 20 mg/kg/day, 40 mg/kg/day, and 60 mg/kg/day of the immediate release formulation of levetiracetam. The evaluation of the pharmacokinetic profile of levetiracetam and its metabolite (ucb L057) in 14 pediatric patients demonstrated rapid absorption of levetiracetam at all doses, with a T max of about 1 hour and a t 1/2 of 5 hours across all dosing levels. The pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam in pediatric patients was linear between 20 to 60 mg/kg/day. The potential interaction of levetiracetam with other AEDs was also evaluated in these patients. Levetiracetam had no significant effect on the plasma concentrations of carbamazepine, valproic acid, topiramate or lamotrigine. However, there was about a 22% increase of apparent clearance of levetiracetam when it was co-administered with an enzyme-inducing AED (e.g., carbamazepine).

    Following single dose administration (20 mg/kg) of a 10% oral solution to pediatric patients with epilepsy (1 month to < 4 years), levetiracetam was rapidly absorbed and peak plasma concentrations were observed approximately 1 hour after dosing. Levetiracetam half-life in pediatric patients 1 month to < 4 years with epilepsy was shorter (5.3 h) than in adults (7.2 h), and apparent clearance (1.5 mL/min/kg) was faster than in adults (0.96 mL/min/kg).

    Population pharmacokinetic analysis showed that body weight was significantly correlated to the clearance of levetiracetam in pediatric patients; clearance increased with an increase in body weight.


Levetiracetam levels may decrease during pregnancy.


Levetiracetam C max and AUC were 20% higher in women (N=11) compared to men (N=12). However, clearances adjusted for body weight were comparable.


Formal pharmacokinetic studies of the effects of race have not been conducted. Cross-study comparisons involving Caucasians (N=12) and Asians (N=12), however, show that pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam were comparable between the two races. Because levetiracetam is primarily renally excreted and there are no important racial differences in creatinine clearance, pharmacokinetic differences due to race are not expected.

Renal Impairment

The disposition of levetiracetam was studied in adult subjects with varying degrees of renal function. Total body clearance of levetiracetam is reduced in patients with impaired renal function by 40% in the mild group (CLcr = 50-80 mL/min), 50% in the moderate group (CLcr = 30-50 mL/min) and 60% in the severe renal impairment group (CLcr <30 mL/min). Clearance of levetiracetam is correlated with creatinine clearance.

In anuric (end stage renal disease) patients, the total body clearance decreased 70% compared to normal subjects (CLcr >80mL/min). Approximately 50% of the pool of levetiracetam in the body is removed during a standard 4 hour hemodialysis procedure [ see Dosage and Administration (2.7) ].

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