What is drug-resistant epilepsy?

Graphic of a group of people, some of whom are indicated to have been diagnosed with epilepsy

Drug-resistant epilepsy, also known as intractable epilepsy or refractory epilepsy, is defined as the failure of at least two anti-seizure drugs.

Approximately 1 in 26 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime. Out of the people living with epilepsy, more than 1 million Americans still experience seizures despite taking anti-seizure medication.

If you or a loved one have tried two medications, there is less than a 5% chance that a third medication will control your seizures.

Chen, Z. et. al. JAMA Neurology, 2018

Focal Epilepsy vs. Generalized Epilepsy

Seizures are generally described as either focal seizures (partial onset) or generalized seizures based on where and how they begin.

  • Focal seizures begin with an electrical discharge in one or two parts of the brain referred to as the seizure focus. While it starts in one area, it can spread to or involve other areas as well (“secondary generalized”).
  • Generalized seizures begin with widespread electrical discharge that involves the entire brain at once.
Focal seizures vs. generalized seizures
Generalized seizures
Focal seizures vs. generalized seizures
Generalized seizures

Focal Epilepsy vs. Generalized Epilepsy

Seizures are generally described as either focal seizures (partial onset) or generalized seizures based on where and how they begin.

  • Focal seizures begin with an electrical discharge in one or two parts of the brain referred to as the seizure focus. While it starts in one area, it can spread to or involve other areas as well (“secondary generalized”).
  • Generalized seizures begin with widespread electrical discharge that involves the entire brain at once.

Why find the right drug-resistant epilepsy treatment for you?

Living with uncontrolled seizures, or drug-resistant epilepsy, can have several risks including:

  • Epilepsy-related injury
  • Increased emotional and behavioral problems
  • Memory problems
  • Poorer occupational outcomes
  • Increased risk of side effects to multiple anti-seizure medications
  • Increased risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)1

What is SUDEP?

SUDEP is defined as a sudden unexpected death of an individual with epilepsy who was otherwise healthy.1

Each year 1 in 150 people with uncontrolled seizures die from SUDEP.

Janson MT, et al. Ann Pharmacother. 2021

Drug-Resistant Epilepsy Treatment Options

Understand your seizures. Explore your options.

Doctor Discussion Guide

Are you or a loved one ready to look for a new treatment option? Use this guide to talk to your doctor about treatment options for drug-resistant, focal epilepsy that may be available to you.

Discussion Guide

Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers

If you think you may have drug-resistant epilepsy, talk to an epilepsy specialist (epileptologist) at a Comprehensive Epilepsy Center (CEC).

Find a Center Near You

Step off the medication merry-go-round.

For many people with epilepsy, even with the help of medications, having seizures is just a part of life. It doesn’t have to be.

Imagine a different kind of therapy. For people living with focal epilepsy, the RNS System can give you new hope.

LEARN MORE about the rns system

1. Epilepsy Foundation Website, 2021. 2. Medtronic Website, 2021. 3. LivaNova Website, 2021.