The cost of brand-name epilepsy drugs has risen by 277%

The cost of brand-name epilepsy drugs has risen by 277%
© iStock/Attila Barabas

New research finds that the costs of brand-name epilepsy drugs have rapidly increased by 277% from 2010 to 2018.

Epilepsy is a common condition affecting the brain, resulting in frequent seizures. Seizures can cause symptoms including uncontrollable jerking, losing awareness, stiffness, and collapsing. Medication is available to treat epilepsy, and a new study found that the price of brand-name epilepsy drugs has increased by 277%. However, generic drugs decreased by 42% during the same eight years.

“The costs for brand-name antiseizure medications have consistently increased since 2010, particularly boosted by increased prescriptions for the drug lacosamide in addition to a steep increase in the cost per pill, with brand-name drugs costing ten times more than their generic counterparts,” said study author Samuel Waller Terman, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Previous studies have shown that drugs are the most expensive part of neurologic care, and antiseizure drugs were the second-highest category of costs among drugs prescribed by neurologists.”

The findings were published online in Neurologythe medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology.

Investigating the rising costs of epilepsy drugs

For the study, the researchers analysed records from a random sample of Medicare beneficiaries with coverage from 2008 to 2018. There were 77,000 to 133,000 people with epilepsy each year.

They found the cost of branded epilepsy drugs increased from $2,800 per year in 2008 to $10,700 per year in 2018; simultaneously, generic drugs decreased from $800 to $460.

Terman commented that an increased number of prescriptions for the drug lacosamide was responsible for 45% of the total increase in brand-name costs.

The number of branded drug prescriptions decreased from 56% in 2008 to 14% in 2018. The researchers note that the decrease in prescriptions for branded epilepsy drugs likely corresponds with the increasing availability of generic equivalents. Terman said that the expiration of the patent for lacosamide is in March 2022, and other changes will affect prescribing patterns.

A growing number of new medications hitting the market

New epilepsy drugs have become available in the last few decades. Doctors must tailor the drug selection to the individual, and there is no single best drug. Many epilepsy drugs can interact with other medications causing side effects such as cognitive problems.

The new research discovered that early administration of epilepsy drugs, known as first-generation drugs and enzyme-inducing drugs with many drug interactions, also decreased in the same time frame.

“Doctors should consider the societal cost when judging whether the increased expense of brand-name drugs is worth the possible benefits,” Terman said. “While newer generation drugs have potential advantages such as limited drug interactions and different side effect profiles, there have been conflicting studies on whether they are cost-effective.”

One limitation recorded was Medicare prescription claims were included in the study, but private insurance claims were not.


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