Single-target versus multi-target drugs versus combinations of drugs with multiple targets : preclinical and clinical evidence for the treatment or prevention of epilepsy
Rationally designed multi-target drugs (also termed multimodal drugs, network therapeutics, or designed multiple ligands) have emerged as an attractive drug discovery paradigm in the last 10-20 years, as potential therapeutic solutions for diseases of complex etiology and diseases with significant drug-resistance problems. Such agents that modulate multiple targets simultaneously are developed with the aim of enhancing efficacy or improving safety relative to drugs that address only a single target or to combinations of single-target drugs. Although this strategy has been proposed for epilepsy therapy >25 years ago, to my knowledge, only one antiseizure medication (ASM), padsevonil, has been intentionally developed as a single molecular entity that could target two different mechanisms. This novel drug exhibited promising effects in numerous preclinical models of difficult-to-treat seizures. However, in a recent randomized placebo-controlled phase IIb add-on trial in treatment-resistant focal epilepsy patients, padsevonil did not separate from placebo in its primary endpoints. At about the same time, a novel ASM, cenobamate, exhibited efficacy in several randomized controlled trials in such patients that far surpassed the efficacy of any other of the newer ASMs. Yet, cenobamate was discovered purely by phenotype-based screening and its presumed dual mechanism of action was only described recently. In this review, I will survey the efficacy of single-target vs. multi-target drugs vs. combinations of drugs with multiple targets in the treatment and prevention of epilepsy. Most clinically approved ASMs already act at multiple targets, but it will be important to identify and validate new target combinations that are more effective in drug-resistant epilepsy and eventually may prevent the development or progression of epilepsy.