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Part of a second generation of anticonvulsant drugs developed since 1989, Keppra offers consistent seizure control with side effects deemed more tolerable than those of medications of the first generation. My previous medication — valproic acid, also known as Depakote — can cause liver damage. According to a National Institutes of Health study, it's also associated with a loss of bone density, and my neurologist told me it would increase my chances of osteoporosis. Compared with such side affects, irritability seems minor.
Baycol, a cholesterol drug, was taken off the market in 2001 after it was linked to fatal cases of kidney failure. The anti-obesity drug fenfluramine/phentermine, also called fen-phen, was pulled from the U.S. market because it may cause heart problems.
Simontacchi describes Keppra as a "blockbuster success" for UCB and for those living with epilepsy. Safer called it "a fairly smooth drug" — the irritability issue aside, I had trouble finding anyone who would criticize the drug.
Still, when I become enraged that the guy in front of me at the post office is in line just to buy stamps that he could buy from a machine, I wonder how much my medicine contributes to my prickliness. For me, life without levetiracetam would be difficult. But as it protects me, it may be making me a jerk.
"I feel your pain," White says. "When the side effects begin to outweigh what one judges is the benefit, it's a tough situation for any patient to be put in."