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Open Access Research article

Is switching from brand name to generic formulations of phenobarbital associated with loss of antiepileptic efficacy?: a pharmacokinetic study with two oral formulations (Luminal® vet, Phenoleptil®) in dogs

Marion Bankstahl1, Jens P Bankstahl12 and Wolfgang Löscher1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Pharmacy, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, and Center for Systems Neuroscience, Hannover 30559, Germany

2 Present address: Preclinical Molecular Imaging, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:202  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-202

Published: 9 October 2013



In human medicine, adverse outcomes associated with switching between bioequivalent brand name and generic antiepileptic drug products is a subject of concern among clinicians. In veterinary medicine, epilepsy in dogs is usually treated with phenobarbital, either with the standard brand name formulation Luminal® or the veterinary products Luminal® vet and the generic formulation Phenoleptil®. Luminal® and Luminal® vet are identical 100 mg tablet formulations, while Phenoleptil® is available in the form of 12.5 and 50 mg tablets. Following approval of Phenoleptil® for treatment of canine epilepsy, it was repeatedly reported by clinicians and dog owners that switching from Luminal® (human tablets) to Phenoleptil® in epileptic dogs, which were controlled by treatment with Luminal®, induced recurrence of seizures. In the present study, we compared bioavailability of phenobarbital after single dose administration of Luminal® vet vs. Phenoleptil® with a crossover design in 8 healthy Beagle dogs. Both drugs were administered at a dose of 100 mg/dog, resulting in 8 mg/kg phenobarbital on average.


Peak plasma concentrations (Cmax) following Luminal® vet vs. Phenoleptil® were about the same in most dogs (10.9 ± 0.92 vs. 10.5 ± 0.77 μg/ml), and only one dog showed noticeable lower concentrations after Phenoleptil® vs. Luminal® vet. Elimination half-life was about 50 h (50.3 ± 3.1 vs. 52.9 ± 2.8 h) without differences between the formulations. The relative bioavailability of the two products (Phenoleptil® vs. Luminal® vet.) was 0.98 ± 0.031, indicating that both formulations resulted in about the same bioavailability.


Overall, the two formulations did not differ significantly with respect to pharmacokinetic parameters when mean group parameters were compared. Thus, the reasons for the anecdotal reports, if true, that switching from the brand to the generic formulation of phenobarbital may lead to recurrence of seizures are obviously not related to a generally lower bioavailability of the generic formulation, although single dogs may exhibit lower plasma levels after the generic formulation that could be clinically meaningful.

Epilepsy; Seizures; Antiepileptic drugs; Brand name vs. generic formulation