Medication nonadherence directly contributes to poor seizure control. A lack of emphasis on correcting poor adherence and failures in patient adherence can result in unwarranted alterations to a patient’s drug regimen. We have modeled nonadherent patients in an animal model of epilepsy to study how alterations to pharmacotherapy, made without consideration of a patient’s adherence, result in changes to seizure control.
Newly diagnosed rats with epilepsy were treated with carbamazepine (CBZ) during a 4‐week baseline period to establish their baseline seizure rate in the presence of 50% adherence. Next, animals were randomized to one of three treatment interventions and monitored for 6 weeks. Groups included: (1) no change in therapy—rats continued the 50% adherent paradigm; (2) dose escalation—the dose of CBZ was doubled, and the 50% adherent paradigm continued; and (3) nonadherence corrected—rats continued the initial dose of CBZ, but the adherence rate was adjusted to 100% (ie, fully adherent).
The rats in the no change in therapy arm displayed a 61% increase in seizure burden over the 6‐week intervention phase. Similarly, rats in the dose escalation arm had a 66% worsening of their daily seizure burden. In contrast, rats in the nonadherence corrected arm displayed a 33% reduction in their daily seizure burden; a significant improvement when compared to the normalized seizure burden scores of rats in the other two treatment arms (P < 0.01).
We found that failure to correct medication nonadherence resulted in an increase in daily seizure burden in rats, even following dose escalation. In the presence of nonadherence, dose escalation worsened seizure control. In contrast, correcting nonadherence alone resulted in improved seizure control. These findings suggest that improving adherence should be prioritized over dose escalation in the clinical management of uncontrolled epilepsy.