Generic versions are available for many epilepsy medications. The chemicals in generic drugs are exactly the same as in the brand-name drugs, but they may be absorbed or processed differently in the body because of the way they are prepared. Therefore, patients should always check with their doctors before switching to a generic version.
Some doctors will advise people with epilepsy to discontinue their medication after two years have passed without a seizure. Others feel it is better to wait for four to five years. Stopping drug therapy should always be done with a doctor's supervision. It is important to continue taking the medicine for as long as the doctor prescribes it.
In addition, people should ask the doctor or pharmacist ahead of time what they should do if they miss a dose.
Stopping epilepsy medication without a doctor's guidance is one of the major reasons people who have been seizure-free start having new seizures. Seizures that result from suddenly stopping treatment can be serious and can lead to status epilepticus. Furthermore, there is some evidence that uncontrolled seizures trigger changes in neurons that can make it more difficult to treat seizures in the future.
The chance that a person will eventually be able to stop taking medicine for epilepsy varies, depending on the person's age and his or her type of epilepsy. More than half of children who go into remission with medication can eventually stop their treatment without having new seizures.
One study showed that 68 percent of adults who had been seizure-free for two years before stopping drugs for epilepsy were able to do so without having more seizures, and 75 percent could successfully discontinue medication if they had been seizure-free for three years.
The odds of successfully stopping epilepsy medication are not as good for:
- People with a family history of the condition
- Those who need multiple medications
- People with focal seizures
- Those who continue to have abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) results while on medication.