Jill* was immediately worried when the mail order company automatically switched her 16-year-old son’s Keppra prescription to a generic version of the anti-seizure drug. “I had discussed this with his neurosurgeon in October and we agreed he would stay on the name brand, especially since a seizure means no driving after I fought so hard to get our state to approve him to get his permit,” Jill wrote in a forum on Epilepsy.com. The company would not allow her to return the medication “so, I threw $100 worth of pills in the trash.” It was worth it to Jill.

When she called her doctor’s office for a new prescription of Keppra with “dispense as written” to avoid any generic substitutions, “the nurse told me they’ve had several patients that have had seizure activity on the generic and that were under control on the Keppra.” The nurse explained that several insurance companies the office deals with force patients to try the generic for three months and will only approve the name brand if the patient has a seizure while taking the generic drug.

The brand name Keppra versus generic debate has escalated as more and more generic versions of Keppra have hit the market. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed the generics to be “bioequivalent” because the active ingredients are the same, doctors and patients are learning that differences in the inactive ingredients can have dangerous effects on the more sensitive systems of epileptics.  Many, like Jill, refuse to take a chance on the generics, even if it costs them hundreds of dollars more each month.

“My son is terrified that he may have to try a new medication, just when his self confidence is improving,” Jill said. “I can’t and won’t do that to him mentally or physically regardless of cost!”

* not her real name.

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