Health & Family

Generic drug failure can be life-threatening

Q: My 7-year-old child had not had a seizure in four years. Her epilepsy has been controlled with Keppra and the ketogenic diet.

Recently, she was switched to levetiracetam, the generic form of Keppra, and now the seizures have returned. I am so disappointed and worried. How can I get the pharmacy to dispense name-brand Keppra?

A: Many others have complained on our website that generic versions of Keppra were less effective than the brand name. One person with epilepsy was well-controlled for years on Keppra. After being switched to the generic form, she had several seizures within two weeks. She noted, “This was life-threatening since I fell down stairs and also had a seizure while cooking.” After her doctor insisted on Keppra, her seizures were once again controlled.

We brought this issue to the attention of the Food and Drug Administration more than six years ago. Officials tell us they are investigating, but it could take some time. In the meantime, we encourage you to enlist your daughter’s doctor in your effort to obtain the brand-name medicine. If your insurance company does not respond, you can save hundreds of dollars by looking to a Canadian pharmacy for the brand-name medicine.

Bicyclists like Noxzema

Q: We read your recent column about itchy bottom and Noxzema cleanser. My husband and I are long-distance bicycle tourists. Sitting on a bicycle seat for many hours a day can produce painful saddle sores. Products designed to prevent saddle sores are expensive and not readily available in rural areas.

We found the original Noxzema Medicated Skin Cleanser to be effective, cheap and readily available. Just smear on a couple of tablespoons and spread it around. It took us more than 2,700 miles with nary a saddle sore!

A: Thanks for the tip. Other long-distance bike riders may benefit.

Cumbersome to get meds

Q: My mother cannot drive due to painful degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. I have to take her to the doctor each month to get her prescription for her hydrocodone-containing pain reliever even though she is not very mobile. The trip, with its hassle and time involved, is stressful for both of us.

She used to have her meds delivered, but now with the new regulations I have to take off work once a month to get the script. I am afraid I will lose my job because of the time away from work.

I wonder if the Drug Enforcement Administration has thought about the crippled elderly. My mom says the DEA is pushing people like her to suicide with this new rule. She needs the pain control. Her body is a pretzel of deformity.

A: The DEA has made it harder to access hydrocodone-containing pain relievers (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, etc.). Its goal was to reduce illicit use by requiring written prescriptions from a physician each month.

This may reduce abuse, but many disabled people in pain are finding it harder to get their medicine. Her doctor may be able to write three 30-day prescriptions at a time to make it a little easier on you and her.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at