Department of Neurology

Stretching medications

Q: I have had epilepsy for 26 years. Just recently I lost my medical coverage and tried reducing my Dilantin dosage in order to stretch my prescription out. It resulted in my having a seizure and being rushed to a hospital. The medical costs are staggering. I only gross about $13,000 per year. My employer of 12 years is aware of my illness and allows me the flexibility my condition requires. My salary isn't much but I can leave or take any time off I need in case of a problem. Although I have sent the hospital my income information to be reviewed for free health care, who can I turn to for help if I'm refused? Is free medication available?

A: Depending on where you live, some states provide Medicaid coverage for persons with low incomes, even if they are not unemployed. For more information, you should probably start with your local Epilepsy Foundation of America affiliate (or check our links to find the closest one). They can generally steer you in the right direction. Also, Parke-Davis (manufacturers of Dilantin) does provide an assistance program for persons who cannot afford medications; you and your physician would need to fill out some forms.

Medication stretching, which is trying to make the same amount of medication last longer by taking less, definitely does NOT work and should never be done. Seizure control is dependent on the presence of certain amounts of drug in your blood stream. Reducing your dose puts you at high risk for uncontrolled seizures, as you have found.

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