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This article was published in November 2012. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Missing tablets contribute to epilepsy death

14 Nov 2012

An inquest into the death of Sunderland resident Karen MacIntyre in April 2012 found that she died from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy). Evidence from her family doctor, Dr Majella Soumakiyan, highlighted that Karen had not taken her epilepsy medicine regularly.

Woman's hand with prescription medicationThe doctor had sent a letter to Karen after discovering that prescriptions had not been issued regularly for Karen’s lamotrigine tablets. Dr Soumakiyan found that Karen’s record showed she was having problems with her medicine but she hadn’t attended a follow-up meeting with her previous doctor. When Dr Soumakiyan became Karen’s doctor she invited her in for a review, but Karen hadn’t responded.

Karen’s brother John told the coroner that he didn’t think his sister understood the risks of not taking her medicine. Both Karen and her partner had learning disabilities. Coronor Derek Winter was told that the levels of lamotrigine in Karen’s bloodstream were very low. The police had not found any of the medicine in Karen’s flat.

Doctors try to stress that people with epilepsy need to take their medicines regularly to achieve the best levels of seizure control. However, this care highlights the importance of working with people with learning disabilities to make sure they understand how to use medicines and their risks.

A verdict of death by natural causes was recorded.

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