June 5th, 2012

Epilepsy medication and treatment in 1970s-1980s (United Kingdom)

My story is set in London in 1981-1982. I have a bunch of questions about epilepsy medication and treatment. Plus I’ll probably be back for more on the mechanics of the 1980s British adoption system later on (ugh). But for now, here goes. If you can help me with even just one of these issues I’d be very grateful!

1. One of my MCs, in his mid twenties, has epilepsy but hasn’t experienced any seizures since he was a teenager. When they did happen, they were tonic-clonics, but he’s only had two. I’m trying to decide whether this is because he was taking epilepsy medication or because he was part of the percentage for whom seizures don’t tend to recur. If it’s too hard to nail down specifics on the medication front, I can just write it that he’s never used any. So … what brands of epilepsy medication for tonic-clonic seizures would have been available in London throughout the 1970s? My research has indicated that carbamazepine (around from 1965) and sodium valproate (1973) may have been used for tonic-clonic seizures, but I don’t know what brands they’d have been packaged as at the time or how readily accessible they’d have been.

2. Also, I have managed to work out that epilepsy medication was exempt from prescription charges on the NHS from either 1965 or 1968 but only for those requiring "continuous therapy" … would two seizures within a one year period have been enough to classify him as requiring continuous therapy in the form of medication for about a decade? If no, would any cheap brands or generics have been available?

3. After a traumatic incident, my MC’s mind is magically wiped (yep, we’re talking Harry Potter fiction here), but the official does a poor job and the magic reacts badly with the MC's epilepsy. First he experiences some auras, which he ignores, before it begins escalating into complex-partial seizures as well. He ends up in hospital, where he’s examined again. Because I need him to experience visions of the original trauma during these seizures plus a couple of other hallucinations, I’m thinking his presentation might be similar to that of temporal lobe epilepsy (especially after reading this post in the archives). But my research is showing TLE wasn’t defined until 1985, so what might a doctor in 1981-1982 diagnose instead? What would the doctors make of the change in presentation and would they do anything to treat it beyond switching up medication? Also what advice would a patient in ‘81-82 be given about dealing with seizures when they occur? Lastly, I know that it isn’t all that rare for epilepsy medication to stop working, but would doctors in the 1980s have chalked it up to any particular phenomenon/circumstance?

Research I’ve already done: mining the archives here, lot of stuff on emedicine and similar sites, epilepsy.org.uk, searching the NHS website and NHS history and variations on the ‘1970 epilepsy medication united kingdom’ theme in Google.

Help with Renaissance Quote, please!

I remember hearing a history professor once paraphrasing Baldassere Castiglione with the line "We must collect shards against the ruin of our civilisation." However, my google-fu is failing me as I try to find the actual quote. I think it was supposedly from "The Book of the Courtier". Though it might be that the quote was from somewhere else and he just used it to sum up the intent of the book.

The meaning was that, as the renaissance was waning with 'barbarian' armies looting throughout Italy and autocratic, sometimes mentally unstable tyrants supplanting republican governments, all that one could do to uphold humanism and high culture for posterity was to keep practising courtly behaviour and learning on a personal level. To keep a candle burning in the growing darkness, if you will.

Does that sound familiar to anyone?


Solved! He probably was referencing T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land". Thanks!