Epilepsy Treatment: Finding the Right Medication
No seizures and no side effects: that's the new ideal in treating epilepsy,
according to the Epilepsy Foundation. While experts temper that mantra with a
dash of realism -- "all medicines have side effects," says Devinsky -- they say
many people live with side effects they don't have to.
"After living on the medication for longer than they lived off of it, some
people can't remember who they were off medication," says Devinsky. Switching
to an epilepsy drug with fewer side effects "has a risk, but can be worth it in
quality of life," for people living with sleepiness, fatigue, or confusion caused by their epilepsy drugs,
But choosing the right one? The number of options for treating epilepsy can
be overwhelming -- even to doctors. To help sort them out, WebMD takes a look
at the epilepsy drugs available today.
Newer Epilepsy Drugs: Higher Price, Fewer Side Effects
The perceived drawbacks of older epilepsy drugs spurred a renaissance of
development of new epilepsy drugs, launched in the 1990s:
Keppra (levetiracetam) is one of the broad-spectrum epilepsy
drugs, meaning it is effective in most adults, regardless of the seizure type.
Keppra also has established benefits in difficult-to-treat seizures. Side
effects include sleepiness, dizziness, and anxiety, although Keppra is usually
Lamictal (lamotrigine) is a broad-spectrum epilepsy drug as well. It's also
used to treat bipolar disorder. An extended release form is available. Side
effects of Lamictal most often include dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, or
headache. A serious rash requiring medical attention can sometimes
Topamax (topiramate) is a broad-spectrum epilepsy drug. It's also effective
migraines. Drowsiness, clumsiness, slowed or difficult speech and
concentration, and weight loss are common side effects of Topamax. Kidney
stones occur in 1% of people.
Zonegran (zonisamide) is broad-spectrum, also. Drowsiness, clumsiness,
nausea, vomiting, and kidney stones (up to 4% of
people) are side effects. A serious rash occurs 1%-2% of the time.
Felbatol (felbamate) is only used for severe seizures that are uncontrolled
by other treatments. Felbatol can cause a rare but potentially fatal blood
disorder called aplastic anemia. The risks of this side effect need to be
balanced against the risks of uncontrolled seizures.