Alternative drug therapy, close physician contact recommended during clobazam shortage

January 24, 2013

People who are taking clobazam for seizures and are at risk of running out of the drug should be discussing alternative drug therapies with their prescribing physician. This can help to ensure that the patient-doctor relationship is strong, says Dr. Jose Martin del Campo.

A medication alternative recommendation from Martin del Campo, a neurologist at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto, and London Health Sciences Centre neurologist Dr. Jorge Borneo, was published Jan. 21.DrugShortage

The recommendation states that if people who are prescribed clobazam are affected by the shortage, they should talk with their prescribing physician about alternative medications and treatment options such as clonazepam.

Clonazepam, like clobazam, is an anticonvulsant that is also a benzodiazepine. Serious withdrawal symptoms can develop when a benzodiazepine medication is halted or reduced, which is why clonazepam is being recommended.

Martin del Campo underscores that clonazepam is not a long-term substitute for clobazam.

“There is no ‘what do you prescribe instead,’ because there has never really been a study that proves that the current recommendation of using clonazepam is effective in controlling the seizures,” he says.

“This is a big deal because we don’t really have an effective alternative drug.”

Martin del Campo also recommends that people with seizure disorders who are taking clobazam maintain a close relationship with their prescribing physician throughout the duration of the shortage.

Close patient-doctor relationships will allow the physician to monitor the patient if they’re taking an alternative medication. Also, in cases where individuals remain on clobazam, it is important to stay in regular contact with their physician to develop an alternative treatment plan, should they become affected by the shortage.

Should a patient with no alternative medication therapy plan run out of clobazam, Martin del Campo does not recommend they go to their local emergency room. Simply put, the attending doctor likely will not know what to do.

“It’s more practical to advocate through the family physician, so if the neurologist isn’t available, the next person that should see the person is their GP, because the GP has been in contact with the treating neurologist,” says Martin del Campo.

In the meantime, Martin del Campo emphasizes that pharmaceutical companies need to start playing a greater role to ensure the public has more notice of impending drug shortages.

“If they were to alert the public that (a shortage) may be coming, it would alert the pharmacists to try to get sufficient stock, because pharmacists should know how many prescriptions for Drug X (they will need), or where they could get some more,” he says.

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Writer: Deron Hamel

The following file has information you can discuss with your health care provider if your pharmacist is unable to refill your prescription for clobazam:
Download Medical Recommendation for Adults with Epilepsy

Note from Epilepsy Ontario: We received notification on Jan. 24 from Apotex Inc. (one of the companies manufacturing clobazam) that a shipment of Apo-Clobazam was released earlier than predicted. While this is good news for people who are taking clobazam for seizure control, this does not resolve the issue of lack of drug shortage notification. For some additional information on other brands of clobazam that are in short supply visit the following website: Pharmaceutical companies report information about drug shortages on a voluntary basis, therefore the information available on this national reporting website may not be complete or up-to-date. The best source of information regarding the availability of clobazam is your pharmacist.

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