Brand-name epilepsy medicine prices skyrocket

Published: June 30 2022
Last updated: May 12 2023

The cost of brand-name epilepsy medicines has increased more than two-and-a-half times between 2010 and 2018, according to a new US study from the journal Neurology.

Researchers Samuel Terman and colleagues set out to better understand the trends in epilepsy medicine prescriptions and costs from 2008-2018. The team looked at a sample of people in the US health insurance programme Medicare.

There were between 77,000 and 133,000 people with epilepsy included a year. In 2008, phenytoin was the most common epilepsy medicine prescribed. This changed to levetiracetam in 2018. Brand name medicines, older medicines, and those that stimulate the production of proteins called enzymes, all reduced over the time period.

The researchers found that in 2018, brand name epilepsy medicines accounted for nearly four fifths (79%) of the cost of epilepsy medicines, but less than one fifth (14%) of prescriptions.

The cost of brand-name epilepsy medicines increased more than two-and-a-half times (277%) from 2010 to 2018, while generic epilepsy medicine reduced in price by two-fifths (42%) in that time.

The study authors found that many common brand-name epilepsy medicines cost 10 times more than the generic versions. The study authors said previous studies have shown that medicines are the most expensive part of neurology care. They added that epilepsy medicines were the second most expensive medicines prescribed by neurologists.

The study is available on the Neurology journal website.