Skipping Epilepsy Medications May Have Dire Consequences

Man taking medicine
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If you have epilepsy, you are more than likely taking medication to control your seizures. Not taking your epilepsy medications? You might feel that skipping just one dose won't hurt anything, but it turns out that skipping your medications could lead to complications.

Remembering to take your medicine — especially if you take more than one medication or take your medicine multiple times a day — can be a problematic task.

Although it might seem OK to skip a dose, keep this in mind: missing just one dose can cause you to lose control of your seizures.

Study: Skipping Meds Can Be Dangerous

A scary study published in the June 2008 issue of Neurology suggests that skipping your antiepileptic medications can have devastating consequences, including death.

For close to 10 years, the study followed the medical records of over 33,000 people with epilepsy. The investigators looked at the consistency in which people took their medication, as well as the number of injuries, fractures, visits to the emergency room, and hospitalizations that occurred during the study. People were considered "adherent" to their medications if they took their medication correctly (no missed doses) at least 80% of the time.

The study found that not taking antiepileptic medications on a daily basis resulted in an increased number of hospital visits, injuries, accidents, and emergency room visits.

In fact, emergency room visits were about 50% higher in comparison to those who took their medication as it was prescribed to them.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding was that those individuals that did not take their medication regularly were three times more likely to die than those who took their medication as prescribed.

While there are many reasons people don't take their medication as followed – such as side effects, cost, or even denial – one probably does not think of death being a possibility when skipping their medicine.

The Bottom Line

This study shows that taking your medications as prescribed and on a regular basis will not only help you to get better control of your seizures, it will also help you to avoid accidents, fractures, visits to the hospital, and even death from a seizure-related event. If you are having problems taking your medications, some of the following tips may be helpful to you:

  • Purchase an inexpensive pill organizer at a pharmacy if you take more than one medication to control your seizures.
  • If you are prone to forgetting to take your medicine, set an alarm on your watch to remind you to take your medication.
  • Never stop any medication before discussing it with your healthcare provider.
  • If you are suffering from undesirable side effects or you are unable to afford the medication, discuss this with your healthcare provider, instead of discontinuing your medication. They may be able to switch you to another medication and closely supervise you during this process.


    Faught E, Duh MS, Weiner JR et al. Nonadherence to antiepileptic drugs and increased mortality. Findings from the RANSOM Study. Neurology 2008. epub 18 June.

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