5-3-09 | Study finds that skipping epilepsy medication can be harmful

People with epilepsy who do not take their anti-seizure medications as prescribed could face serious or even fatal consequences, according to a new study from the University of Alabama.

The findings of the study published in the online version of the journal Neurology indicate that when patients take their medications less than 80% of the time, they are three times more likely to die than when they stick to their medication plan.

It also found that not taking anti-seizure medications also greatly increases the number of visits to A&E. During periods of non-compliance, rates of A&E visits were 50% higher; hospital admissions were up 86% compared to periods when the patients were taking their medication properly.

The study involved 33,000 American patients over a nine year period and compliance with medication was assessed every quarter. Non-compliance was defined as having medication on hand for less than 80% of the days in the quarter.

A significantly higher incidence of car accidents and bone breaks were also common among those who failed to take their medicine regularly, the researchers found.

Previous studies show that about 30-50% of people with epilepsy do not take their medication regularly as prescribed. These new findings are therefore very worrying as up to half of the total epilepsy population could be putting themselves at risk. The study reinforces the fact that people with epilepsy should not stop taking medication without the prior consent of their doctor.

Side effects are one of the most common reasons for non-compliance. If you are experiencing side-effects from a new medication, talk to your doctor.

The authors say "None of those reasons (for not taking medications properly) overshadow the threat of death or other problems related to uncontrolled seizures."