Inside of a pharmacy


Anti-seizure medication (ASM), previously called anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs, works by controlling the electrical activity in the brain that causes seizures. It does not cure epilepsy and is not used to stop seizures while they are happening. ASM works best if taken regularly, around the same time each day. Up to 70% of people (7 in 10) could have their seizures fully controlled (stop having seizures) with the right ASM.

The aim of treatment is to stop all of your seizures with the lowest dose of the fewest number of ASMs and with the least side effects.

Usually treatment starts using a single ASM at a low dose, which is increased slowly (called titration), until your seizures are controlled. If your seizures are not controlled with this drug, a different ASM is usually tried (by adding in the new drug and then slowly withdrawing the first one). If your seizures are not controlled with a single drug, another drug might be added, so that you take two different ASMs each day. 

Most ASMs have two names, a generic name and a brand name given by the manufacturer (for example, Nurofen is a brand name of the generic painkiller ibuprofen). Some ASMs have more than one generic version and each version can be given its own name. For some ASMs, different versions of the drug can vary slightly and this could affect seizure control. Once you and your doctors have found an ASM which helps to control your seizures, and which suits you, it is recommended that you take the same version of ASM consistently with every prescription, whether it is a generic or brand version. This is called ‘consistency of supply’.

If a prescription only has the generic name of the drug, the pharmacist can give any version of the drug with that name. However, if the prescription has the brand name of the drug, the pharmacist has to give that brand. It can be helpful to get your prescription from the same pharmacist each time as some pharmacists keep records of the medication they dispense and can help with questions about prescriptions. There are also lots of other ways in which your pharmacist can help you.

Information updated: February 2022

Sarah Reid on the phone

Who can I talk to?

You might want to talk to your specialist, epilepsy specialist nurse or GP, about your epilepsy. You might also want to talk to your pharmacist about your treatment. They may be able to do a ‘Medicines use review’ each year where you can talk to them about your medication. 

Our confidential epilepsy helpline provides information and emotional support. You can also get in contact with us through Facebook and Twitter.

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Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate is an epilepsy drug prescribed for all seizure types including absence, myoclonus and tonic clonic seizures. It is also prescribed to a lesser degree for bipolar disorders. It is known under different brand names including Epilim, Epival, Episenta and Convulex.

New regulations have been introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) around the way in which the drug, sodium valproate is prescribed to women and girls of childbearing age.