Managing Your Epilepsy Medication

Download the PDF here – Managing Your Seizure Medication

Most people diagnosed with epilepsy need medication treatment. Taking your seizure medications as prescribed by your doctor is essential for good seizure control – missing a dose might cause a seizure breakthrough.

There are nowadays many choices of medications, you and your specialist should be able to work together to find the one which best suits you.

Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are the most common treatment for people with epilepsy. Around 70% of people with epilepsy can have good seizure control if they take their medication correctly.

Taking medications as prescribed

Taking your AEDs as prescribed by your doctor is important for seizure control. Changes to dose, timing or medication brand may lead to breakthrough seizures, increased seizure severity or frequency, or may lead to prolonged seizures requiring emergency treatment. Reasons people may not take their medications as prescribed include:

  • Missing or forgetting to take a dose
  • Ceasing medications due to side effects or feeling as though medications aren’t working
  • Reduced medication effectiveness due to vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Using a different brand (such as a generic brand substitution)
  • Running out of medications

What to do if you miss a dose

General advice is that if a dose is missed it can generally be taken as soon as you remember. Do not double up on doses. It is advisable not to take the missed dose if it is close to the next one. Keep a record of doses that have been missed.

Keep your doctor informed

Communication with your doctor is essential. Tell your doctor about any other medications or supplements you are taking. Ask your doctor about what side effects to look out for and what actions to take should you notice any. Discuss any medication concerns with your doctor as they may be able to make suggestions to improve the side effects. Ask your doctor what to do if you miss a dose.

Medication side effects

Experiencing side effects is common particularly in the early stages of starting a medication. Side effects can cause some people to stop taking their medications, or stop taking them regularly. Other people may feel like the medications aren’t improving their seizure control.

It is important that you do not stop taking your medications suddenly because this can result in breakthrough seizures, sometimes more severe or longer than you usually experience. Ask  your doctor what side effects to look out for, and what you should do if you experience any side effects. Always seek medical guidance before you make any changes to your medications.

Forgetting to take medication

Many people with epilepsy experience problems with their memory which can make remembering to take medication difficult. There are a number of strategies that can be helpful to remind you to take your medication:

  • Use a pill box or Webster Pack. This is useful particularly if you take numerous medications. It also reduces the chance of double dosing.
  • Use technology. Set up reminders on your phone, watch or email. There are also lots of apps available for your smart phone.
  • Establish a routine and combine with a daily task such as brushing your teeth, or meals.
  • Keep medication in an easy to see place so you can’t miss it.

Be mindful – pause and be present when you take your medication.

Storage

Keep adequate supplies of your medication on hand and a spare prescription at home or with your pharmacist to ensure you don’t run out. Keep your medication in a cool, dry place and out of the reach of children.

Medication affordability

There are a number of supports available to assist with the affordability of medications including the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the PBS Safety Net. Check with Centrelink if you are eligible for a Health Care Card which gives you access to cheaper medications. Sometimes your pharmacist may offer a generic substitute (different brand of the same medication)
because it is cheaper. Changing the brand of your medication may increase your risk of a break through seizure or cause side effects. Always discuss with your specialist before any changes to your medication.

Important things to remember

  1. Talk to your doctor about your medications and side-effects.
  2. Always seek medical guidance before you make any changes to your medications.
  3. Implement strategies so that you don’t forget or run out of your medications.
  4. Maintain adequate supplies of medications.
  5. Keep an extra dose in your bag.

Other resources for your medicines

NPS MedicineWise
Phone: 1300 633 424
Web: www.nps.org.au

The PBS Information Line
Phone: 1800 020 613 (Freecall)

Poisons Information line in your state or territory

 

 

© Epilepsy Foundation September 2017. The information contained on this page provides general information about epilepsy. It does not provide specific advice. Specific
health and medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified health professional.

Reviewed by: Professor Patrick Kwan FRACP, PhD, Chair of Neurology, Department of Medicine, The University of Melbourne