Drug Therapy

By far the most common approach to treating epilepsy is to prescribe antiepileptic drugs. The first effective antiepileptic drugs were bromides, introduced by an English physician named Sir Charles Locock in 1857. He noticed that bromides had a sedative effect and seemed to reduce seizures in some patients.

Anti-epileptic drugs do not cure epilepsy they only control it. Some drugs work by making over-active brain cells less excitable, and other work by decreasing the brain cells’ ability to transmit abnormal impulses to each other causing a seizure.

Doctors seeing a patient with newly developed epilepsy often prescribe carbamazepine, valproate, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, or phenytoin first, unless the epilepsy is a type that is known to require a different kind of treatment. For absence seizures, ethosuximide is often the primary treatment. Other commonly prescribed drugs include clonazepam, phenobarbital, and primidone. Some relatively new epilepsy drugs include tiagabine, gabapentin, topiramate, levetiracetam, and felbamate. Other drugs are used in combination with one of the standard drugs or for intractable seizures that do not respond to other medications.

Epilepsy Ireland has published an easy to understand table that lists all the anti-epelepitic drugs with their generic and brand names along with side effects (the drugs used in Ireland are the same as USA):

Table of Drug Treatment for Epilepsy Generic and Product Brand

Epilepsy Society of New York has provided a  similar table with images of the actual medications.


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