The epilepsy treatment gap is largest in resource-poor countries. We evaluated the efficacy of a 1-day health education program in a rural area of Kenya. The primary outcome was adherence to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) as measured by drug levels in the blood, and the secondary outcomes were seizure frequency and Kilifi Epilepsy Beliefs and Attitudes Scores (KEBAS).
Seven hundred thirty-eight people with epilepsy (PWE) and their designated supporter were randomized to either the intervention (education) or nonintervention group. Data were collected at baseline and 1 year after the education intervention was administered to the intervention group. There were 581 PWE assessed at both time points. At the end of the study, 105 PWE from the intervention group and 86 from the nonintervention group gave blood samples, which were assayed for the most commonly used AEDs (phenobarbital, phenytoin, and carbamazepine). The proportions of PWE with detectable AED levels were determined using a standard blood assay method. The laboratory technicians conducting the assays were blinded to the randomization. Secondary outcomes were evaluated using questionnaires administered by trained field staff. Modified Poisson regression was used to investigate the factors associated with improved adherence (transition from nonoptimal AED level in blood at baseline to optimal levels at follow-up), reduced seizures, and improved KEBAS, which was done as a post hoc analysis. This trial is registered in ISRCTN register under ISRCTN35680481.
There was no significant difference in adherence to AEDs based on detectable drug levels (odds ratio [OR] 1.46, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.74–2.90, p = 0.28) or by self-reports (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.71–1.40, p = 1.00) between the intervention and nonintervention group. The intervention group had significantly fewer beliefs about traditional causes of epilepsy, cultural treatment, and negative stereotypes than the nonintervention group. There was no difference in seizure frequency. A comparison of the baseline and follow-up data showed a significant increase in adherence—intervention group (36–81% [p < 0.001]) and nonintervention group (38–74% [p < 0.001])—using detectable blood levels. The number of patients with less frequent seizures (≤3 seizures in the last 3 months) increased in the intervention group (62–80% [p = 0.002]) and in the nonintervention group (67–75% [p = 0.04]). Improved therapeutic adherence (observed in both groups combined) was positively associated with positive change in beliefs about risks of epilepsy (relative risk [RR] 2.00, 95% CI 1.03–3.95) and having nontraditional religious beliefs (RR 2.01, 95% CI 1.01–3.99). Reduced seizure frequency was associated with improved adherence (RR 1.72, 95% CI 1.19–2.47). Positive changes in KEBAS were associated with having tertiary education as compared to none (RR 1.09, 95% CI 1.05–1.14).
Health education improves knowledge about epilepsy, but once only contact does not improve adherence. However, sustained education may improve adherence in future studies.