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Drug resistant epilepsy

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What is drug resistant epilepsy?

Drug resistant epilepsy (DRE) is a term used to describe when adequate trials of two anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) have failed to control a person’s seizures. Some people also refer to this as “refractory”, “intractable” or “uncontrolled” epilepsy. 

It is important that the AEDs prescribed are appropriate for the type of seizures someone has. While two thirds of people with epilepsy could have their seizures controlled by anti-epileptic medication, for one third, their seizures remain drug resistant.

It is important that anyone whose seizures have not been controlled after trying two different drugs, either on their own or in combination, is seen by an epilepsy specialist to work out why their seizures are not controlled and whether other treatment options might be appropriate. These could include, epilepsy surgery, the ketogenic diet and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy.

Hear what the nation has to say

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to share their experiences of uncontrolled seizures on regional radio stations. This is a very powerful way to raise awareness of epilepsy. We will be sharing links to the broadcasts across all our social media platforms and on this page, after the interviews have been aired.

Drugs falling out of a container

What treatment options are there?

Epilepsy is sometimes referred to as a long-term condition, as people often live with it for many years, or for life. Although generally epilepsy cannot be ‘cured’, for most people, seizures can be 'controlled' (stopped) so that epilepsy has little or no impact on their lives. So treatment is often about managing seizures in the long-term. 

Most people with epilepsy take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) to stop their seizures from happening. However, there are other treatment options for people whose seizures are not controlled by anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).

Over 600,000 people in the UK have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a common and serious neurological condition which affects the brain and nervous system. Seizures always start in the brain and are caused by many different underlying causes, including a person's genetics, a structural change in the brain or from other underlying conditions.

There are over 40 different types of seizure, and not all of them are physical which is why epilepsy can also be an invisible condition.

On this page you'll find information around all aspects of epilepsy including causes, triggers, diagnosing epilepsy and treatment.


There are many different types of epileptic seizure. Any of us could potentially have a single epileptic seizure at some point in our lives.This is not the same as having epilepsy, which is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.

Epileptic seizures

There are many different types of epileptic seizure. Any of us could potentially have a single epileptic seizure at some point in our lives. This is not the same as having epilepsy, which is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. 

A woman looking into the distance

Living with epilepsy

Sometimes epilepsy can be hard to come to terms with.

Some people feel relieved to be given a name and treatment for their condition. Sometimes epilepsy can be hard to come to terms with. Talking about any worries, asking questions and sharing information about epilepsy may help you, or your family and friends, to make sense of what is happening.

Sport and leisure

To live full and active lives, and look after our physical and emotional wellbeing, we all need time to rest, relax and exercise. How we spend our leisure time is important and individual to us all, whether or not we have epilepsy.


We send monthly e-newsletters to keep you informed with tips for managing epilepsy, the latest news, inspirational stories, fundraising opportunities and further information from Epilepsy Society.

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