University Hospital urges epileptics to discuss medicaiton switch with doctor

posted on:
July 20, 2010

author:
JENNIFER WALKER-JOURNEY

Switching from a brand name medication to a generic is OK in most situations, according to The University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey; however, epileptics should check with their primary care physicians before taking or receiving any generic substitutions. For this population, even subtle changes in medication can cause the patient to suffer more seizures. A return of seizures can result in a loss of driving privileges and could impair employment or school.

Generic drugs have clear benefits, such as less expensive prices than brand names, especially for epileptics who often are faced with taking medication every day of their lives. But doctors at The University Hospital say beware. One example why is the anti-seizure drug Keppra.

Beginning in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved generic versions of the drug to be marketed to the public. Generic drugs have the same active ingredient, but often the inactive ingredients differ. And even with similar active ingredients, the way the medicine is processed can differ. Those slight differences can cause huge problems for epileptics.

Some studies suggest as many as 59 percent of people who switched from brand name Keppra to a generic equivalent suffered from reoccurring seizures. Forty-nine percent said they suffered from serious side effects such as vomiting and weakness and even psychotic episodes.

Such studies have spurred the Epilepsy Foundation to launch an awareness campaign urging epileptics to first discuss whether they should switch to generics with their primary care physicians. The group is also petitioning insurance companies to not automatically require a switch to generic medication for patients using anti-seizure medication.

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