Carbamazepine

K K Jain MD (Dr. Jain is a consultant in neurology and has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Originally released December 15, 1998; last updated September 15, 2017; expires September 15, 2020

Historical note and terminology

Carbamazepine is classified as an antiepileptic drug, although it is used for other indications as well. The era of antiepileptic drugs started with the introduction of bromides in 1857 and was followed by the discovery of the anticonvulsant effect of barbiturates in 1912 (Hauptman 1912) and then by hydantoins a few years later (Werdnecke 1916). Several years elapsed without any further drug development in this area when, during the development of the antidepressant drug imipramine, carbamazepine (a related compound) was synthesized and shown to have antiepileptic properties (Schindler and Hafliger 1954). Efficacy in treating epilepsy was demonstrated by clinical trials (Lustig 1964). The beneficial effect of carbamazepine on trigeminal neuralgia was also demonstrated (Blom 1962). The compound was developed and introduced into clinical practice as an antiepileptic drug in 1963 in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. It was initially used in the 1960s for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia in the United States and was approved later for the treatment of epilepsy. Classical reviews of carbamazepine include 2 monographs (Sillanpaa 1981; Kramer and Hopf 1987).

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