Eighteen-year-old Jacob has experienced more than his share of medical problems. But the latest issues he blames on switching from the anti-seizure drug Keppra to a generic equivalent. At 13, Jacob suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit on the head with a blunt object. His skull was fractured in seven places and he laid in a coma for 32 days at Children’s Hospital at Scottish Rites in Atlanta, Ga. After several reconstructive skull and brain surgeries, Jacob was finally released from the hospital and given a prescription for Keppra to control the seizures he developed after the brain injury. “I did great on Keppra,” he said on an Epilepsy.com message board.
But three years later, without his or his neurologist’s knowledge, Jacob’s prescription for Keppra was replaced with a lesser expensive generic version of the drug. There are several manufacturers of generic Keppra, and Jacob was switched to one made by Mylan Pharmaceuticals. The transition stifled his life.
“I have not been able to go to school, or do any of my activities that I usually do,” he said. “I went from having ZERO side effects on brand name Keppra, to having 17 of the 32 side effects on the generic. I have awful dizzy spells throughout the day and I am light-headed all day every day. I have migraine headaches which I have never had since my accident, I have run a fever, been fatigued, had muscle spasms, itching, rash, shortness of breath, swelling, sore throat, weakness, drowsiness, vision changes, loss of coordination, difficulty walking, and depression. I have been miserable…”
Generic medications are tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the active ingredient is equivalent to the brand name drug. However, subtle differences in the inactive ingredients, such as dyes and fillers, can have dramatic effects on some individuals, especially those with neurological problems. For Jacob, the change turned his world upside down. “I have missed three weeks of school and have had one ambulance ride, one CT scan, a ton of different medications, emergency room bills, doctors visits, and pain and suffering.”
There is a silver lining for Jacob. With his doctor’s help, he was switched back to brand-name Keppra. “I am happy to say that tomorrow will be one full week back on regular Keppra and my symptoms are starting to go away,” he said. “My headaches are not nearly as bad as they were but I’m still light-headed.”