Brivaracetam is a relatively unique anticonvulsant that is typically used in combination with other antiepileptic medications for partial onset seizures. Brivaracetam has been linked to rare instances of serum aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase elevations during treatment and is suspected of causing rare cases of clinically apparent drug induced liver disease.


Brivaracetam (briv" a ra' se tam) is a pyrrolidine derivative related in structure to levetiracetam. Its mechanism of action is not known, but it, like levetiracetam, binds to the synaptic vesicle protein 2A (SV2A) in the brain and appears to act by preventing secondary spread of focal seizure activity and decreasing simultaneous neuronal firing. Brivaracetam was approved for use in epilepsy in 2016 and current indications are as adjunctive therapy for partial onset seizures in adults and in children 16 years or older. Brivaracetam is available as tablets of 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 mg under the brand name Briviact. Liquid oral and injectable forms are also available. The recommended initial dose in adults is 50 mg twice daily, with dose adjustment based upon tolerance and effect downward or upward to a maximum of 100 mg twice daily. Common side effects include dizziness, somnolence, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting.


Prospective studies reported that chronic brivaracetam therapy was not accompanied by significant elevations in serum aminotransferase levels and clinically apparent liver injury was not observed. Brivaracetam has had limited general use, but has not been linked to instances of clinically apparent liver injury. Levetiracetam, an anticonvulsant with similar structure and mechanism of action, has been linked to rare instances of acute liver injury, generally arising within 1 to 20 weeks and presenting with a hepatocellular pattern of injury without immunoallergic or autoimmune features. Whether similar cases will be linked to brivaracetam is not known.

Likelihood score: E (unlikely cause of clinically apparent liver injury).

Mechanism of Injury

The mechanism by which brivaracetam might cause liver injury is unknown, but is likely to be hypersensitivity. Brivaracetam is metabolized by hydrolysis followed by hydroxylation that is mediated by the cytochrome P450 system, predominantly CYP 2C19. Inhibitors of CYP 2C19 (such as carbamazepine and phenytoin) may increase and CYP 2C19 inducers (such as rifampin) may decrease brivaracetam levels.

Outcome and Management

Minor serum enzyme elevations during brivaracetam therapy rarely require dose modification or discontinuation, but elevations above 5 times the ULN should lead to dose modification and search for other possible causes. Acute liver failure, chronic hepatitis and vanishing bile duct syndrome have not been reported with brivaracetam therapy, nor has anticonvulsant hypersensitivity (DRESS) syndrome, and brivaracetam may be a reasonable alternative in patients who have developed liver injury due to an aromatic anticonvulsant such as phenytoin, carbamazepine or lamotrigine.

Drug Class: Anticonvulsants



Brivaracetam – Briviact®




Product labeling at DailyMed, National Library of Medicine, NIH



References updated: 02 October 2017

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    (Expert review of anticonvulsants and liver injury published in 1999, before the availability of brivaracetam).
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    (Patient developed acute liver failure 1 month after being switched from oxcarbazepine to levetiracetam [bilirubin 34.6 mg/dL, ALT 1610 U/L, Alk P 246 U/L], which recurred on restarting levetiracetam post liver transplant [bilirubin rising to 4.5 mg/dL, ALT 350 U/L, Alk P 650 U/L], resolving within 2 weeks of stopping).
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