Patterns of anticonvulsant use and adverse drug events in older adults

Lidia M.V.R. Moura, Jason R. Smith, Zhiyu Yan, Deborah Blacker, Lee H. Schwamm, Joseph P. Newhouse, Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, John Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine indications for, duration of use, and rate of adverse drug events (ADE) attributable to anticonvulsant initiation, as adjudicated by expert review of electronic health records (EHR) of older adults. Methods: We identified a cohort of community dwelling Medicare beneficiaries with linked EHR (aged 65+, continuously enrolled with a large health system/until death between 2012 and 2014, n = 20 945) and drew a stratified EHR review sample (n = 1534). An expert reviewed all records to adjudicate anticonvulsant use, years of use, indication for use, and evidence of ADEs attributable to anticonvulsant initiation. After excluding patients with insufficient EHR data (n = 37; 2%), we reconstructed the cohort using inverse probability weights to resemble the original cohort of eligible beneficiaries (n = 20 380). Among incident users of a single anticonvulsant, we estimated the rate of ADEs and described the type and severity of ADEs. Results: Overall, 12% (n = 2469) of eligible beneficiaries used at least one anticonvulsant in the 2012 to 2014 period (4% [n = 757] incident users, 8% [n = 1712] prevalent users). Incident users were most frequently prescribed gabapentin (n = 461/757, 61%), benzodiazepines (n = 122/757, 16%), and levetiracetam (n = 74/757, 10%); the most common indication was pain relief (n = 214; 28%) followed by epilepsy (n = 53; 7%). Among incident users, the overall ADE rate was 10/100 person-years (95% CI 4-20/100 person-years), of which 29% (n = 28/97) were life threatening (eg, somnolence). Most ADEs among incident monotherapy users were nervous system related (68%, n = 66/97). Conclusion: Many older adult community dwelling traditional Medicare beneficiaries had clinically significant ADEs likely attributable to the initiation of anticonvulsant therapy, which was begun for a range of indications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Aged, anticonvulsants, neurology, outcome assessment, patient safety


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