#AimForZero Missed Medications

There are many different medicines that can help prevent or stop seizures. These are sometimes called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or anti-seizure drugs. Medicine is the most common way of treating epilepsy and is almost always the first treatment tried.

Anti-epileptic drugs will successfully control seizures for nearly 7 out of 10 people with epilepsy. Some medicines tend to work better for certain kinds of seizures than for others. Learn about how medicines work, choosing a first medicine, and finding the best dosage.

If one medicine fails, another or a combination of medicines may work better. The medications do not fix the problem that causes seizures; rather, they help stop seizures from occurring. View a list of seizure medications.

The Importance of Taking Medication on Schedule

However, these medicines to control seizures only work if they are taken exactly as prescribed. The brain needs a constant supply of seizure medicine to continue to stop and prevent seizures.

When doses are missed or the medicine is taken irregularly, the level of medicine in the body decreases. Changing levels increases the risk of more seizures.

Community Understanding About Taking Medication on Schedule

In a self-reported survey, more than 9 out of 10 people with epilepsy said they take medications as prescribed by their healthcare providers. However, large-scale analyses suggest rates of adherence are much lower; in fact, published studies demonstrate more than 70% of people with epilepsy do not adhere to their medication regimens.1

Help for Taking Medication on Schedule

There are many reasons why people do not take medicines as prescribed, including memory problems, side effects, or instructions that are too complicated. Taking medicatons as the doctor instructs is not easy for most people and may require special effort and training.

People with epilepsy should not be embarrassed about discussing any difficulty they may be having. It is critical to work with their healthcare providers, talk about side effects and how to manage them, and find easier ways of taking medicine consistently, such as setting a daily alarm or using text or diary reminder system. Taking these steps and acting on them is the only way for the medicine(s) to work effectively to prevent seizures.

The Epilepsy Foundation’s website epilepsy.com provides additional information about the risks of missing doses of seizure medicines and answers common questions people have about medications.

Other therapies, such as dietary changes or complementary or alternative therapies, may be added to medicine as part of a complete treatment plan for a person with epilepsy. These additional therapies also require following the doctor's instructions to provide the greatest benefits.

#AimForZero Missed Medications

Reference

1. Cramer JA, Glassman, M. The relationship between poor medication compliance and seizures. Epilepsy Behav. 2002 Aug:3(4):338-342. Last accessed July 18, 2016.

Authored by: The Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP on 9/2016
Dr. Orrin Devinsky
Expert Insight

How important is taking medicines as prescribed for preventing seizures?

"A single missed dose of medication can cause a seizure, even if a dose has been missed many times before without a seizure. Taking medications is a must—aim for no missed doses."

— Orrin Devinsky, MD, Epilepsy.com Editor Emeritus and Director of the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center