Seizures occur when the brain sends abnormal electrical signals to the body. The first line of therapy is medication to prevent or control seizures. As with any medication, anti-seizure drugs are linked to undesirable side effects, some of which may become permanent. The mechanism of action of anti-seizure drugs is rarely fully understood, and the unwanted side effects may take time to develop. It is the unintended side effects that can make these important therapeutic options fall into the class of dangerous drugs.
Some anti-seizure medications are well known, such as Tegretol, Lyrica, and Klonopin. Others have been proven effective in some classes of patients, and others, such as Diastat rectal gel, have distinctive delivery protocols. Even when taken as prescribed by a licensed physician, side effects can still occur. The studies that pharmaceutical companies perform to get FDA approval do not always take every potentially adverse consequence into effect, though they should. When used by the general public, complications are often revealed that should have been anticipated by a drug’s manufacturer.
Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, changes in mood, and changes in coordination. Patients who experience these symptoms should consult their attending physician to alter dosages or try another medication. Loss of coordination and changes in proprioception are normally detected during a routine physical examination. Changes like memory loss and mood swing are self-reported by patients.
Other physical side effects can include hair loss in the case of Depakote, gum overgrowth in the case of Dilantin, and vision loss in the case of Sabril. Hyperactivity in children has been linked to the use of both Phenobarbital and Mysoline.
When an adverse anti-seizure drug effect affects coordination, level of alertness, or the ability to continue activities of daily living, it can cause more problems than what it is supposed to cure. When other medical interventions need to be undertaken to correct side effects, such as gum overgrowth, liver toxicity, hyperactivity, rashes, nausea, appetite and weight loss, abnormal blood counts, this likewise negatively impacts quality of life.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to test all products before presenting them to the FDA for approval. Once approved for use by the general public, prescribing physicians rely on the information provided by drug companies and their sales representatives. In the free market, some firms minimize side effects in order to maximize sales. In health care, transparency of information is key to ensuring that patients receive the most up-to-date data in order that they and their health care providers can make informed treatment choices. No one is accusing anti-seizure drug manufacturers of withholding information, but there have been incidences of preventable side effects that, as research progresses, may reveal patterns that should have been obvious in hindsight.
In order to untangle the chain of liability if patients do experience preventable negative side effects, it takes an experienced legal team to determine if published medical literature supports the use of potentially dangerous anti-seizure drugs in an individual patient’s case. If not, it may be a case of malpractice by the prescribing physician if the patient’s medical record reveals documented contraindications were known by the physician. If the prescribing physician followed the manufacturer’g guidelines, it may be that the guidelines themselves are negligently flawed.
No matter the degree of injury suffered from adverse anti-seizure drug side effects, patients deserve to have their rights defended according to the circumstances of their case. An experienced and sensitive legal team will consult with their client in order to ascertain the facts. Then, they will review relevant medical records, relevant published professional literature, and scientific studies of the effects experienced by their client. If a pattern is detected, the case may warrant class action status. If it is unique, it may merit an individual legal case against either the manufacturer, the prescriber, or the pharmacy.
Any person who suffers from seizures has enough complications in his or her life. To have those complications compounded and amplified by the use of medications that are supposed to cure rather than harm, can be unbearable to the point of making quality of life worse, not better, than before. Dangerous drug attorneys and medical injury lawyers work to ensure that patients’ rights are defended to the full extent of the law. Their job is to make sure that medicine is practiced according to the Hippocratic Oath, that first no harm should be done to any patient.