• Article

Higher androgens and weight gain with valproate compared with lamotrigine for epilepsy

BACKGROUND: Valproate is used widely for the treatment of epilepsy but has been associated with hyperandrogenism, hyperinsulinemia, and dyslipidemia. The mechanism for these associations is unknown, but they have been hypothesized to be secondary to valproate-associated weight gain. This study was conducted to test the hypothesis that the antiepileptic drug lamotrigine, which also has a broad spectrum of anti-seizure efficacy, would not be associated with endocrine abnormalities and would not cause weight gain. OBJECTIVE AND METHODS: This open-label, cross-sectional study compared (1) endocrine and lipid measures during the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle; (2) prevalence of menstrual disorders (from patient diaries recorded over three cycles); and (3) body weight of women with epilepsy on lamotrigine monotherapy (n=119) with those on valproate monotherapy (n=103) for <5 years. RESULTS: Mean total serum testosterone and androstenedione levels were higher (P<0.02) in the valproate group compared with the lamotrigine group. More lamotrigine patients (87%) than valproate patients (77%) reported regular menstrual cycles at the Screening Visit. The prevalence of anovulation did not differ between lamotrigine and valproate. Mean HDL cholesterol levels were higher (P<0.01) with lamotrigine compared with valproate as were LDL and total cholesterol levels (P<0.05). Mean total insulin levels did not significantly differ between the groups. Whereas mean body weight in lamotrigine patients did not differ between the time lamotrigine treatment was initiated and the Study Visit, mean weight in valproate patients increased by 3.7 kg. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with lamotrigine monotherapy, valproate monotherapy was associated with weight gain and higher androgen levels in women with epilepsy. These data suggest that the hyperandrogenism observed in some women using valproate for epilepsy may be secondary to drug therapy. Lamotrigine monotherapy may be more appropriate than valproate for women in whom reproductive endocrine or metabolic abnormalities are potential concerns, i.e. women with concerns about weight gain, diabetes, hirsutism, polycystic ovary syndrome, menstrual dysfunction or infertility.


Morrell, MJ., Isojarvi, J., Taylor, AE., Dam, M., Ayala, R., Gomez, G., ... Messenheimer, J. (2003). Higher androgens and weight gain with valproate compared with lamotrigine for epilepsy. Epilepsy Research, 54(2-3), 189-199. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0920-1211(03)00085-8