Earlier this year the first case-control analysis to determine the odds of AED substitution among patients requiring emergency care was published in the journal Epilepsia (Zachry, et al). Using the Ingenix LabRX data base, the study reported that patients who had an epileptic event requiring emergency care, who had not required care for at least six months, had 81% greater odds of having an AED formulation switch.
SURVEY SHOWS LINK BETWEEN MEDICATION SWITCHING AND
INCREASED RISK OF SEIZURES AND SIDE EFFECTS
The Epilepsy Foundation announced a new report of survey data obtained from more than 1000 consumers who report an increased risk of seizures and side effects when they have switched from one manufacturer’s formulation of an antiepileptic drug (AED) to another. The switch can be between different manufacturers’ versions of the same generic drug, from a generic to the brand-name drug, or from the brand-name drug to a generic. It can also be caused by a switch from one manufacturer’s formulation of its antiepileptic drug to a new formulation of the same drug. The Foundation’s just-released survey tells the stories that too many individuals have experienced, and supports other newly published studies documenting that switching can cause breakthrough seizures and severe, unexpected side effects.
While most patients can safely switch their medications among different formulations of the same antiepileptic medication, the Epilepsy Foundation recommends that consent must be obtained from the individual with epilepsy and their physician before any such substitutions are made – to avoid potentially life-threatening seizures. Too many people have been harmed; some have even died as a result of an unsupervised switch.
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Generic Drugs Can Save You Money, But Not When Switching Among
Different Versions Causes Seizures or Side Effects
Generic drugs are currently estimated to save consumers at least $8 to $10 billion a year at retail pharmacies because they cost less than the brand name versions of the same product. The Epilepsy Foundation actively supports the increased use of generic medications as a way to save money in healthcare. Because medications are a major cost of epilepsy, the availability of less expensive versions of brand name medicine can be very good news for people with epilepsy.
Medication switching is a major concern because seizures are serious events that can have considerable cost to one’s health, well-being, and pocketbook – and can even be life threatening for the person experiencing the seizure, or because that person accidentally injures someone else during the seizure. As is being shown in related studies, the cost savings in the less expensive medications may be lost when overall health costs and societal consequences are taken into account for those patients who experience breakthrough seizures or troublesome side effects when switched from their usual seizure medicine.
The Foundation has written to the major insurance companies sharing the data on switching and requesting that, given the elevated risk, companies not require patients on brand AEDs to switch and to eliminate any cost differential between brand and generic AEDs for people with epilepsy.
Click here for more information on what you can do to ensure your medication is covered and to learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation’s outreach and education to insurance companies about medication switching.