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Epilepsy Health Center

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Got Epilepsy? Take Medication as Directed

Missed Doses of Antiseizure Pills Associated With Higher Death Risks
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 19, 2008 -- Here's notice to persons with epilepsy: Not taking medication to control seizures could be deadly.

That's according to a new review of medical records examined from 1997 to 2006.

Study researcher Edward Faught, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Epilepsy Center, and colleagues pored over insurance records from three state Medicaid programs (Florida, Iowa, and New Jersey).

The study included 33,658 people with epilepsy who filled at least two epilepsy drug prescriptions.

Here's what the review found:

  • People who took their epilepsy medications less than 80% of the time over three months were three times more likely to die. This was compared with people who took their medication as prescribed during the same time period. The researchers took into account other factors, such as age, gender, other medical problems, and regular use of other medications.
  • Incidence of hospital admissions increased by 86% during the time when people did not take their medications regularly.
  • For emergency room visits, incidence increased 50% during the time when people didn't take their medications regularly.
  • There was also a significantly higher incidence of car accidents and bone breaks.

There was one exception: Head injuries were less common when people did not take their medications as directed.

In prepared statements, Faught says, "These results are concerning since some studies show about 30 to 50 percent of people with epilepsy do not take their medication regularly."

"There are many reasons epileptic patients fail to take their seizure medications, including cost, side effects, and pregnancy," he says. "But this study suggests that none of those reasons overshadows the threat of death or other problems related to uncontrolled seizures. Patients need to stay on their medications and physicians need to recognize and treat issues related to people failing to take epilepsy drugs."

The study was sponsored by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

The results appear in the June 18 online edition of Neurology.

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