“If I can’t get my epilepsy under control, my life is a disaster,” writes Jason*, a 17-year-old epileptic. The teenager recently wrote to Joe and Teresa Graedon, who answer letters from readers in a regular column in the Chicago Tribune. Jason said he started taking the anti-seizure drug Keppra two years ago. The medication got his seizures under control and he went into remission. However, he recently moved to a new city and was switched to levetiracetam, a generic version of the drug. The results were devastating.
“My seizures got much worse, and I came out of remission,” he says. He started a trial of Keppra XR and went back into remission, “but my doctor won’t switch me back to the name brand. So, when I run out of this sample, I will most likely start having seizures again.”
Joe and Teresa Graedon with peoplespharmacy.com, who answer questions from readers in a regular column in the Chicago Tribune, have heard complaints from dozens of other readers who were switched from the brand name Keppra to a generic with devastating results. “We have submitted many of these reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but so far have heard nothing back,” the columnists reply.
In 2009, the FDA approved generic versions of Keppra to be marketed in the United States. As a result, many insurance companies ordered pharmacies to switch from the brand name Keppra to a lesser expensive generic version, often without the patient’s knowledge. Subtle differences in the ingredients between brand name and generic Keppra resulted in patients experiencing a return of seizures and other adverse events. Epileptics who experience a return of seizures may have their driving privileges revoked, be unable to work or attend school, and be at risk for serious injury and even death.