The long-term efficacy and safety of sodium valproate and carbamazepine in adult outpatients with newly diagnosed primary generalised or partial and secondarily generalised seizures were compared in a randomised, open, multicentre study at 22 neurology outpatient clinics. Patients were randomised to oral sodium valproate (Epilim EC enteric coated 200 mg tablets twice daily, n = 149) or oral carbamazepine (100 mg twice daily increasing to 200 mg twice daily in week 2, n = 151) and followed up for three years. If clinically necessary, dosages were regularly increased until seizures were controlled or toxicity developed. Sodium valproate and carbamazepine controlled both primary generalised and partial seizures equally effectively overall. Significantly more patients on sodium valproate than carbamazepine (126/140 (90%) v 105/141 (75%), p = 0.001) remained on randomised treatment for at least six months. Skin rashes occurred significantly more often in carbamazepine recipients than in sodium valproate recipients (11.2% v 1.7%, p < 0.05) and carbamazepine was associated with a higher withdrawal rate because of adverse events (15% v 5% on sodium valproate) in the first six months of treatment. There was no difference between the drugs in the rate of withdrawal because of poor seizure control at any stage, regardless of seizure type. At the end of the three year trial period, over 70% of the available patients were still on randomised treatment or had recently stopped treatment after achieving full seizure control. Sodium valproate and carbamazepine were both associated with a high degree of overall seizure control regardless of seizure type and both have good long-term tolerability in adult patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy. Recommendations are made for a higher initial dosage regime for sodium valproate in partial seizures.
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