A two-year observational study shows that strategies to improve treatment of severe epilepsy can reduce the cost of medications and hospitalization expenses. The research was sponsored by UCB Inc., makers of two epilepsy drugs, Vimpat (lacosamide) C-V and Keppra XR (levetiracetam) extended-release tablets.

The study looked at U.S. insurance records of 9,163 epilepsy patients who filed at least two claims for antiepileptic drugs, or AEDs. Total costs of treatment ranged from $6,000 to $33,000 per year over the two-year period and varied depending on disease severity, which was based on the number of epilepsy-related emergency room visits with three or more visits considered “most severe.” According to the study, there was a disproportionate tenfold rise in “other” costs, such as hospitalizations, from the least to the most severe category. The difference between AED and “other” costs also increased with epilepsy severity, and the cost difference decreased with better AED compliance.

“This analysis indicates that the high cost of treating severe epilepsy is due mainly to the expense of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and other non-AED related costs,” said David Kaufman, Sc.D., Associate Director, Slone Epidemiology Center and Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University Schools of Public Health. “It follows, therefore, that providing patients with better treatment strategies to reduce the occurrence of seizures-which could translate to fewer emergencies and hospitalizations-could help keep the overall cost of treatment in check and reduce the financial impact to the healthcare system.”

In 2009, UCB’s patent on Keppra ran out and generic versions of Keppra were approved for marketing in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the FDA has determined that the generic versions of Keppra contain the same active ingredients as the brand name, the inactive ingredients, such as dyes and additives, vary. This subtle difference generally does not create issues for consumers, but some doctors believe that epileptics in particular can be sensitive to even the slightest change in medication, resulting in a return or increase in the number of seizures, as well as headaches, and other complications.

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