Are anti-epileptic drugs immunosuppressants?


Our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young, answers recent concerns regarding certain anti-epileptic drugs being seen as immunosuppressants.

We recently received a message on social media regarding concerns that epilepsy drugs such as Lamotrigine, Phenytoin and Tegretol are seen as immunosuppressants and this then puts those taking it into the high-risk category regarding Covid19. This is not correct.

There are many anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), which work using different mechanisms. Either prescribed singly or in combination with each other and alongside other medications.

It is our understanding most standard anti-epileptic drugs which are commonly and widely prescribed are not generally classified as immunosuppressants or considered to significantly increase an individuals’ risk of contracting infections.

We would urge people to stay on their epilepsy medication and not to stop taking it unless directed to by a clinician.

The evidence on whether AEDs can affect the immune system is not robust. Clinical studies on different drugs report conflicting and inconsistent results.

One problem is that it can be impossible to separate the effects of seizures on the immune system from the potential effects of any drugs.

Also, the results of tests on animals and in the laboratory do not necessarily translate to any problems in humans.

Contact your epilepsy specialist nurse or local epilepsy service by telephone if you remain concerned about this issue.

However, we would urge anyone to keep taking their epilepsy medication in the meantime.

If you do see changes in your seizure activity speak to your epilepsy specialist on the phone.

For more information regarding anti-epileptic drugs, please read our factsheet or email



Epilepsy Scotland services

This is a period of great uncertainty for all due to the current situation regarding coronavirus also known as Covid19.

The long-lasting impact of Covid19 is yet unclear. Epilepsy Scotland’s priority is to ensure we continue to support people affected by epilepsy, whilst keeping our staff and volunteers as safe as possible.

This is why our staff will be working from home in accordance with the new Government guidelines. This is to help deal with the spread of Covid19 for at least the next three weeks.

However, we will continue to provide support and information to people living with epilepsy in Scotland.

Epilepsy is much more than seizures. Epilepsy can lead to anxiety, depression and social isolation and in these extreme circumstances this may be heightened. We need to continue our services for those living with epilepsy now more than ever.

If you want to talk to someone about your epilepsy, have any questions or simply need to talk to someone during these challenging times, you can request a call back from one of our Helpline and Information Officers by emailing your telephone number to, or send a private message on social media.

We will continue to provide support to our wellbeing and youth groups in Edinburgh and Glasgow through our newly set up Facebook support groups.

These groups are a safe and non-judgemental meeting space. Also, they are a great opportunity for people to continue to engage in these difficult times.

We will continue to provide information regarding epilepsy. We’ll keep everyone up to date on our service provision as things progress on social media and on our website.