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Aplastic Amenia; Hepatic Failure

Aplastic Anemia

  • The use of felbamate is associated with a marked increase in the incidence of aplastic anemia. Accordingly, felbamate should only be used in patients whose epilepsy is so severe that the risk of aplastic anemia is deemed acceptable in light of the benefits conferred by its use (seeĀ indications). Ordinarily, a patient should not be placed on and/or continued on felbamatewithout consideration of appropriate expert hematologic consultation.
  • Among felbamate treated patients, aplastic anemia (pancytopenia in the presence of a bone marrow largely depleted of hematopoietic precursors) occurs at an incidence that may be more than a 100 fold greater than that seen in the untreated population (i.e., 2 to 5 per million persons per year). The risk of death in patients with aplastic anemia generally varies as a function of its severity and etiology; current estimates of the overall case fatality rate are in the range of 20 to 30%, but rates as high as 70% have been reported in the past.
  • There are too few felbamate associated cases, and too little known about them to provide a reliable estimate of the syndrome's incidence or its case fatality rate or to identify the factors, if any, that might conceivably be used to predict who is at greater or lesser risk.
  • In managing patients on felbamate it should be borne in mind that the clinical manifestation of aplastic anemia may not be seen until after a patient has been on felbamate for several months (e.g., onset of aplastic anemia among felbamate exposed patients for whom data are available has ranged from 5 to 30 weeks). However, the injury to bone marrow stem cells that is held to be ultimately responsible for the anemia may occur weeks to months earlier. Accordingly, patients who are discontinued from felbamate remain at risk for developing anemia for a variable, and unknown, period afterwards.
  • It is not known whether or not the risk of developing aplastic anemia changes with duration of exposure. Consequently, it is not safe to assume that a patient who has been on felbamate without signs of hematologic abnormality for long periods of time is without risk.
  • It is not known whether or not the dose of felbamate affects the incidence of aplastic anemia.
  • It is not known whether or not concomitant use of antiepileptic drugs and/or other drugs affects the incidence of aplastic anemia.
  • Aplastic anemia typically develops without premonitory clinical or laboratory signs, the full blown syndrome presenting with signs of infection, bleeding, or anemia. Accordingly, routine blood testing cannot be reliably used to reduce the incidence of aplastic anemia, but, it will, in some cases, allow the detection of the hematologic changes before the syndrome declares itself clinically. Felbamate should be discontinued if any evidence of bone marrow depression occurs.

Hepatic failure

  • Evaluation of postmarketing experience suggests that acute liver failure is associated with the use of felbamate. The reported rate in the u.s. has been about 6 cases of liver failure leading to death or transplant per 75,000 patient years of use. This rate is an underestimate because of under reporting, and the true rate could be considerably greater than this. For example, if the reporting rate is 10%, the true rate would be one case per 1,250 patient years of use.
  • Of the cases reported, about 67% resulted in death or liver transplantation, usually within 5 weeks of the onset of signs and symptoms of liver failure. The earliest onset of severe hepatic dysfunction followed subsequently by liver failure was 3 weeks after initiation of felbamate. Although some reports described dark urine and nonspecific prodromal symptoms (e.g., anorexia, malaise, and gastrointestinal symptoms), in other reports it was not clear if any prodromal symptoms preceded the onset of jaundice.
  • It is not known whether or not the risk of developing hepatic failure changes with duration of exposure.
  • It is not known whether or not the dosage of felbamate affects the incidence of hepatic failure.
  • It is not known whether concomitant use of other antiepileptic drugs and/or other drugs affect the incidence of hepatic failure.
  • Felbamate should not be prescribed for anyone with a history of hepatic dysfunction.
  • Treatment with felbamate should be initiated only in individuals without active liver disease and with normal baseline serum transaminases. It has not been proved that periodic serum transaminase testing will prevent serious injury but it is generally believed that early detection of drug-induced hepatic injury along with immediate withdrawal of the suspect drug enhances the likelihood for recovery. There is no information available that documents how rapidly patients can progress from normal liver function to liver failure, but other drugs known to be hepatotoxins can cause liver failure rapidly (e.g., from normal enzymes to liver failure in 2-4 weeks). Accordingly, monitoring of serum transaminase levels (ast and alt) is recommended at baseline and periodically thereafter. While the more frequent the monitoring the greater the chances of early detection, the precise schedule for monitoring is a matter of clinical judgement.
  • Felbamate should be discontinued if either serum ast or serum alt levels become increased ? 2 times the upper limit of normal, or if clinical signs and symptoms suggest liver failure (seeĀ precautions). Patients who develop evidence of hepatocellular injury while on felbamate and are withdrawn from the drug for any reason should be presumed to be at increased risk for liver injury if felbamate is reintroduced. Accordingly, such patients should not be considered for re-treatment.


  • Perform complete pretreatment blood count and periodic monitoring through therapy.
  • Monitor serum transaminases at baseline and periodically thereafter. Discontinue if AST or ALT increase > 2 times upper limit of normal.
  • Do not consider drug for retreatment if patient previously withdrawn due to ADR.

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Updated January 2018