MAY, 2011 -- More than half of children who have been newly diagnosed with epilepsy fail to comply with their prescribed medicine schedule. The study, published on the Journal of the American Medical Association website, showed 58 percent of children, aged 2 to 12, did not take their medicine as prescribed. The pattern of noncompliance is tied to lower socioeconomic status.

Studies have tied noncompliance in adults taking medication to increased seizures, elevated mortality and higher health care costs. It remains unclear, according to the study, if lack of compliance would have a similar impact on children.

The children in the study were within 6 months of being newly diagnosed and did not have any significant developmental disorders (such as autism or Down Syndrome). The primary caregivers were predominantly mothers or stepmothers (85 percent) and fathers (13 percent).

Previous studies involved self-reporting by caregivers and showed noncompliance at approximately 20 percent in the first month of therapy. This new study, involving controllable mechanisms such as a device that tracks when medications were dispensed, shows a noncompliance rate near 60 percent.

The study authors said lack of medication compliance “is a common and previously under recognized problem for children with newly diagnosed epilepsy. Socioeconomic status was the only significant predictor of [lack of compliance] and may help identify patients at higher risk.”

"This study highlights one of the more important unspoken truths about why some individuals continue to have seizures. That is the failure to follow specific directions from their doctor can lead to bad outcomes,” said Dr. Joseph Sirven, chair-elect of the Epilepsy Foundation’s professional advisory board. “Sadly, the finding that one's socioeconomic status is a key factor is another powerful reminder of the health care divide. Those with less means are less able to follow what is prescribed. We hope that organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation can help pave an easier road to help correct these discrepancies."

Reviewed by Epilepsy Foundation Professional Advisory Board Chair-Elect Joseph Sirven, MD.

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