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Drug notification approved

Published (3/4/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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In the more than 30 years since Laurie Olmon’s epilepsy diagnosis, her seizures have interrupted her life. They’ve happened in a women’s bathroom at the Metrodome, over spaghetti with a date and at home with her young son.

“This I do not have control over,” Olmon told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee Feb. 25. “What I should have control over is what I’m putting in my body.”

The committee approved HF1320, which would require pharmacists to notify patients and their doctors when a prescription for an anti-epilepsy drug has been switched from a brand name to a generic or from one manufacturer to another. The bill, which was sent to the House Finance Committee and re-referred to the House Health Care and Human Services Finance Division, is sponsored by Rep. Marsha Swails (DFL-Woodbury), a high school English teacher whose student had a seizure in her class in December. A companion, SF1137, sponsored by Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division.

Bill supporters said slight differences in concentrations of anti-epilepsy drugs can cause seizures and other toxic effects in epileptics. A person who has been seizure-free for years under a certain drug may never regain seizure control if switched to a different prescription.

Opponents referenced existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that require generics to achieve the same drug absorption levels as corresponding brand names. Vern Rowen, vice president of state government affairs for Express Scripts, a national pharmacy benefit manager, said that while individual anecdotes may suggest otherwise, “…there does not seem to be scientific evidence yet that suggests there is a relationship between switching from brand to generic or generic to generic and the causation of seizures in epileptics.”

Dr. Ilo Leppik, an epileptologist with MINCEP Epilepsy Care, said he supports the science but not the belief that hard and fast rules apply to everyone.

“The science may say this will work, but there are probably 5 or 10 or 15 percent of people for whom the science doesn’t apply,” he said.

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