Second and third generation AEDs have been directly compared to controlled-release carbamazepine (CBZ-CR) as initial monotherapy for new-onset focal epilepsy. Conversely, no head-to-head trials have been performed. The aim of this study was to estimate the comparative efficacy and tolerability of the antiepileptic monotherapies in adults with newly diagnosed focal epilepsy through a network meta-analysis (NMA). Randomized, double-blinded, parallel group, monotherapy studies comparing any AED to CBZ-CR in adults with newly diagnosed untreated epilepsy with focal-onset seizures was identified. The outcome measures were the seizure freedom for 6 and 12 months, the occurrence of treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs), and the treatment withdrawal due to TEAEs. Mixed treatment comparisons were conducted by a Bayesian NMA using the Markov chain Monte Carlo methods. Effect sizes were calculated as odds ratios (ORs) with 95% credible intervals (CrIs). Four trials were included involving 2856 participants, 1445 for CBZ-CR and 1411 for the comparative AEDs. Monotherapy AEDs compared to CBR-CR were levetiracetam (LEV), zonisamide (ZNS), lacosamide (LCM), and eslicarbazepine acetate (ESL). There were no statistical differences in the 6- and 12-month seizure freedom and TEAEs occurrence between LEV, ZNS, LCM, ESL, and CBZ-CR In the analysis of drug withdrawal due to TEAEs, LCM treatment was associated with a significantly lower discontinuation rate than CBZ-CR (OR 0.659, 95% CrI 0.428-0.950). LEV, ZNS, LCM, and ESL are effective initial monotherapy treatments in adult patients with newly diagnosed focal epilepsy and represent suitable alternatives to CBZ-CR.
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