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Keppra XR (Levetiracetam) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology



KEPPRA XR is an antiepileptic drug available as 500 mg and 750 mg (white) extended-release tablets for oral administration.

The chemical name of levetiracetam, a single enantiomer, is (-)-(S)-α-ethyl-2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide, its molecular formula is C8H14N2O2 and its molecular weight is 170.21. Levetiracetam is chemically unrelated to existing antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). It has the following structural formula:

Levetiracetam is a white to off-white crystalline powder with a faint odor and a bitter taste. It is very soluble in water (104.0 g/100 mL). It is freely soluble in chloroform (65.3 g/100 mL) and in methanol (53.6 g/100 mL), soluble in ethanol (16.5 g/100 mL), sparingly soluble in acetonitrile (5.7 g/100 mL) and practically insoluble in n-hexane. (Solubility limits are expressed as g/100 mL solvent.)

KEPPRA XR tablets contain the labeled amount of levetiracetam. Inactive ingredients: colloidal anhydrous silica, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol 6000, polyvinyl alcohol-partially hydrolyzed, titanium dioxide (E171), Macrogol/PEG3350, and talc. The imprinting ink contains shellac, FD&C Red #40, n-butyl alcohol, propylene glycol, titanium dioxide, ethanol, and methanol.


Mechanism Of Action

The precise mechanism(s) by which levetiracetam exerts its antiepileptic effect is unknown. The antiepileptic activity of levetiracetam was assessed in a number of animal models of epileptic seizures. Levetiracetam did not inhibit single seizures induced by maximal stimulation with electrical current or different chemoconvulsants and showed only minimal activity in submaximal stimulation and in threshold tests. Protection was observed, however, against secondarily generalized activity from focal seizures induced by pilocarpine and kainic acid, two chemoconvulsants that induce seizures that mimic some features of human complex partial seizures with secondary generalization. Levetiracetam also displayed inhibitory properties in the kindling model in rats, another model of human complex partial seizures, both during kindling development and in the fully kindled state. The predictive value of these animal models for specific types of human epilepsy is uncertain.

In vitro and in vivo recordings of epileptiform activity from the hippocampus have shown that levetiracetam inhibits burst firing without affecting normal neuronal excitability, suggesting that levetiracetam may selectively prevent hypersynchronization of epileptiform burst firing and propagation of seizure activity.

Levetiracetam at concentrations of up to 10 μM did not demonstrate binding affinity for a variety of known receptors, such as those associated with benzodiazepines, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), glycine, NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate), re-uptake sites, and second messenger systems. Furthermore, in vitro studies have failed to find an effect of levetiracetam on neuronal voltage-gated sodium or T-type calcium currents and levetiracetam does not appear to directly facilitate GABAergic neurotransmission. However, in vitro studies have demonstrated that levetiracetam opposes the activity of negative modulators of GABA- and glycine-gated currents and partially inhibits N-type calcium currents in neuronal cells.

A saturable and stereoselective neuronal binding site in rat brain tissue has been described for levetiracetam. Experimental data indicate that this binding site is the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, thought to be involved in the regulation of vesicle exocytosis. Although the molecular significance of levetiracetam binding to synaptic vesicle protein SV2A is not understood, levetiracetam and related analogs showed a rank order of affinity for SV2A which correlated with the potency of their antiseizure activity in audiogenic seizure-prone mice. These findings suggest that the interaction of levetiracetam with the SV2A protein may contribute to the antiepileptic mechanism of action of the drug.



Bioavailability of Keppra XR tablets is similar to that of the Keppra IR Tablets. The pharmacokinetics (AUC and Cmax) were shown to be dose proportional after single dose administration of 1000 mg, 2000 mg, and 3000 mg extended-release levetiracetam. Plasma half-life of extended-release levetiracetam is approximately 7 hours.

Levetiracetam is almost completely absorbed after oral administration. The pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam are linear and time-invariant, with low intra- and inter-subject variability. Levetiracetam is not significantly protein-bound (<10% bound) and its volume of distribution is close to the volume of intracellular and extracellular water. Sixty-six percent (66%) of the dose is renally excreted unchanged. The major metabolic pathway of levetiracetam (24% of dose) is an enzymatic hydrolysis of the acetamide group. It is not liver cytochrome P450 dependent. The metabolites have no known pharmacological activity and are renally excreted. Plasma half-life of levetiracetam across studies is approximately 6-8 hours. The half-life is increased in the elderly (primarily due to impaired renal clearance) and in subjects with renal impairment.

Absorption and Distribution

Extended-release levetiracetam peak plasma concentrations occur in about 4 hours. The time to peak plasma concentrations is about 3 hours longer with extended-release levetiracetam than with immediate-release tablets.

Single administration of two 500 mg extended-release levetiracetam tablets once daily produced comparable maximal plasma concentrations and area under the plasma concentration versus time as did the administration of one 500 mg immediate-release tablet twice daily in fasting conditions. After multiple dose extended-release levetiracetam tablets intake, extent of exposure (AUC0-24) was similar to extent of exposure after multiple dose immediate-release tablets intake. Cmax and Cmin were lower by 17% and 26% after multiple dose extended-release levetiracetam tablets intake in comparison to multiple dose immediate-release tablets intake. Intake of a high fat, high calorie breakfast before the administration of extended-release levetiracetam tablets resulted in a higher peak concentration, and longer median time to peak. The median time to peak (Tmax) was 2 hours longer in the fed state.

Two 750 mg extended-release levetiracetam tablets were bioequivalent to a single administration of three 500 mg extended-release levetiracetam tablets.


Levetiracetam is not extensively metabolized in humans. The major metabolic pathway is the enzymatic hydrolysis of the acetamide group, which produces the carboxylic acid metabolite, ucb L057 (24% of dose) and is not dependent on any liver cytochrome P450 isoenzymes. The major metabolite is inactive in animal seizure models. Two minor metabolites were identified as the product of hydroxylation of the 2-oxo-pyrrolidine ring (2% of dose) and opening of the 2-oxo-pyrrolidine ring in position 5 (1% of dose). There is no enantiomeric interconversion of levetiracetam or its major metabolite.


Levetiracetam plasma half-life in adults is 7 ± 1 hour and is unaffected by either dose or repeated administration. Levetiracetam is eliminated from the systemic circulation by renal excretion as unchanged drug which represents 66% of administered dose. The total body clearance is 0.96 mL/min/kg and the renal clearance is 0.6 mL/min/kg. The mechanism of excretion is glomerular filtration with subsequent partial tubular reabsorption. The metabolite ucb L057 is excreted by glomerular filtration and active tubular secretion with a renal clearance of 4 mL/min/kg. Levetiracetam elimination is correlated to creatinine clearance. Levetiracetam clearance is reduced in patients with impaired renal function [ see Use in Specific Populations and Dosage and Administration ].

Pharmacokinetic Interactions

In vitro data on metabolic interactions indicate that levetiracetam is unlikely to produce, or be subject to, pharmacokinetic interactions. Levetiracetam and its major metabolite, at concentrations well above Cmax levels achieved within the therapeutic dose range, are neither inhibitors of, nor high affinity substrates for, human liver cytochrome P450 isoforms, epoxide hydrolase or UDP-glucuronidation enzymes. In addition, levetiracetam does not affect the in vitro glucuronidation of valproic acid. The pharmacokinetics of immediate-release levetiracetam are linear over the dose range of 500-5000 mg. Levetiracetam and its major metabolite are less than 10% bound to plasma proteins; clinically significant interactions with other drugs through competition for protein binding sites are therefore unlikely.

Potential pharmacokinetic interactions of or with immediate-release levetiracetam were assessed in clinical pharmacokinetic studies (phenytoin, valproate, warfarin, digoxin, oral contraceptive, probenecid) and through pharmacokinetic screening in the placebo-controlled clinical studies in epilepsy patients [ see Drug Interactions (7) ]. The potential for drug interactions for extended-release levetiracetam is expected to be similar to that with immediate-release levetiracetam.

Special Populations


There are insufficient pharmacokinetic data to specifically address the use of extended-release levetiracetam in the elderly population.

Pharmacokinetics of immediate-release levetiracetam were evaluated in 16 elderly subjects (age 61-88 years) with creatinine clearance ranging from 30 to 74 mL/min. Following oral administration of twice-daily dosing for 10 days, total body clearance decreased by 38% and the half-life was 2.5 hours longer in the elderly compared to healthy adults. This is most likely due to the decrease in renal function in these subjects.

Pediatric Patients

Safety and effectiveness of KEPPRA XR in patients below the age of 16 years have not been established.


Extended-release levetiracetam Cmax was 21-30% higher and AUC was 8-18% higher in women (N=12) compared to men (N=12). However, clearances adjusted for body weight were comparable.


Formal pharmacokinetic studies of the effects of race have not been conducted with extended-release or immediate-release levetiracetam. Cross study comparisons involving Caucasians (N=12) and Asians (N=12), however, show that pharmacokinetics of immediate-release levetiracetam were comparable between the two races.

Renal Impairment

The effect of KEPPRA XR on renally impaired patients was not assessed in the well-controlled study. However, it is expected that the effect on KEPPRA XR-treated patients would be similar to that seen in well-controlled studies of immediate-release KEPPRA tablets. In patients with end stage renal disease on dialysis, it is recommended that immediate-release KEPPRA be used instead of KEPPRA XR.

The disposition of immediate-release levetiracetam was studied in adult subjects with varying degrees of renal function. Total body clearance of levetiracetam is reduced in patients with impaired renal function by 40% in the mild group (CLcr = 50-80 mL/min), 50% in the moderate group (CLcr = 30-50 mL/min) and 60% in the severe renal impairment group (CLcr <30 mL/min). Clearance of levetiracetam is correlated with creatinine clearance.

In anuric (end stage renal disease) patients, the total body clearance decreased 70% compared to normal subjects (CLcr >80mL/min). Approximately 50% of the pool of levetiracetam in the body is removed during a standard 4 hour hemodialysis procedure.

Dosage should be reduced in patients with impaired renal function receiving levetiracetam; immediate-release levetiracetam should be given to patients on dialysis [ see Dosage and Administration ].

Hepatic Impairment

In subjects with mild (Child-Pugh A) to moderate (Child-Pugh B) hepatic impairment, the pharmacokinetics of levetiracetam were unchanged. In patients with severe hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh C), total body clearance was 50% that of normal subjects, but decreased renal clearance accounted for most of the decrease. No dose adjustment is needed for patients with hepatic impairment.


Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


Rats were dosed with levetiracetam in the diet for 104 weeks at doses of 50, 300 and 1800 mg/kg/day. The highest dose corresponds to 6 times the maximum recommended daily human dose (MRHD) of 3000 mg on a mg/m2 basis and it also provided systemic exposure (AUC) approximately 6 times that achieved in humans receiving the MRHD. There was no evidence of carcinogenicity. A study was conducted in which mice received levetiracetam in the diet for 80 weeks at doses of 60, 240 and 960 mg/kg/day (high dose is equivalent to 2 times the MRHD on a mg/m2 or exposure basis). Although no evidence for carcinogenicity was seen, the potential for a carcinogenic response has not been fully evaluated in that species because adequate doses have not been studied.


Levetiracetam was not mutagenic in the Ames test or in mammalian cells in vitro in the Chinese hamster ovary/HGPRT locus assay. It was not clastogenic in an in vitro analysis of metaphase chromosomes obtained from Chinese hamster ovary cells or in an in vivo mouse micronucleus assay. The hydrolysis product and major human metabolite of levetiracetam (ucb L057) was not mutagenic in the Ames test or the in vitro mouse lymphoma assay.

Impairment Of Fertility

No adverse effects on male or female fertility or reproductive performance were observed in rats at oral doses up to 1800 mg/kg/day (approximately 6 times the maximum recommended human dose on a mg/m2 or exposure basis).

Animal Toxicology And/Or Pharmacology

In animal studies, levetiracetam produced evidence of developmental toxicity at doses similar to or greater than human therapeutic doses.


The effectiveness of the immediate-release formulation of KEPPRA as adjunctive therapy (added to other antiepileptic drugs) in adults was established in three multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical studies in 904 patients who had refractory partial onset seizures with or without secondary generalization for at least two years and had taken two or more classical AEDs.

The effectiveness of KEPPRA XR as adjunctive therapy (added to other antiepileptic drugs) was established in one multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study across 7 countries in patients who had refractory partial onset seizures with or without secondary generalization. Patients enrolled had at least eight partial seizures with or without secondary generalization during the 8-week baseline period and at least two partial seizures in each 4-week interval of the baseline period. Patients were taking a stable dose regimen of at least one and could take a maximum of three AEDs. After a prospective baseline period of 8 weeks, 158 patients were randomized to placebo (N=79) or KEPPRA XR (2x500 mg tablets) (N=79) given once daily over a 12-week treatment period.

The primary efficacy endpoint was the percent reduction over placebo in mean weekly frequency of partial onset seizures. The median percent reduction in weekly partial onset seizure frequency from baseline over the treatment period was 46.1% in the KEPPRA XR 1000 mg treatment group (N=74) and 33.4% in the placebo group (N=78). The estimated percent reduction over placebo in weekly partial onset seizure frequency over the treatment period was 14.4% (statistically significant).

The relationship between the effectiveness of the same daily dose of KEPPRA XR and immediate-release KEPPRA has not been studied and is unknown.

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