Epilepsy Sparks

Pharmacists Helping People With Epilepsy

Pharmacists Helping People With Epilepsy

My name is Georgina Gillard and I am a fourth year Pharmacy1 Student at Medway School of Pharmacy2. I live in Ramsgate3, UK4,  and I also work for Paydens Pharmacies5 during term time as well as summer holidays.

Favourite movies:                           Harry Potter6 is at the top of my list, swiftly followed by the James Bond7 movies!

Favourite TV programmes:          The Big Bang Theory8, Brooklyn Nine-Nine9 and Friday Night Dinner10

Favourite activities:                        Bowling, going to arcades and playing air hockey, and eating out!

Additional:                                         I relate to Sheldon Cooper11 (staying up all night to study!)


Why I chose to study pharmacy and specialise in epilepsy

In 2011, my family and I went to the beach, and whilst my mother and I walked along the sand we suddenly heard my dad collapse to the floor. He’d landed on the back of his head and there was blood everywhere. When he was admitted into hospital and he’d had the scans, were told that he’d had a subdural hematoma12 (a collection of blood outside the brain), that he’d shattered the back of his skull, and that the force had smacked his brain into the front of his skull and caused him brain damage. He was then diagnosed with epilepsy. The cause of my father’s collapse wasn’t ever established – it may have been a seizure…or something else. We’ll never know.

After the epilepsy diagnosis, our local Community Pharmacy13 played a key role in my father’s healthcare; he had a fantastic relationship with the Pharmacist. I was 13 and had never been into a pharmacy before yet found myself fascinated with how the Pharmacist knew so much about medicines! They knew how some of them could help to prevent seizures, which drugs he couldn’t take alongside his epilepsy medications, and more. I went straight onto Google to research the drugs that my father was taking, and that’s where it all started: my passion for studying pharmacology14 and epilepsy have not stopped since! I started studying at Medway School of Pharmacy in 2016, and my goal is to graduate in July 2020 and become an Epilepsy Specialist Pharmacist15!


Georgina Gillard

Why being a Pharmacist is exciting

Pharmacists play a major role in the healthcare of people within a community, especially as Pharmacists are usually the most accessible healthcare provider. Pharmacists are the experts of medicines and therefore they can resolve any medication-related problems. Pharmacists can have a direct relationship with the patient, the patient does not need an appointment to see the Pharmacist, and you’ll often find that Pharmacists know more about their patients than their GP’s16; simply because they see them more! Pharmacists are a part of a community network, a multidisciplinary team, and are key leaders in all aspects of the healthcare system. Once they go through an additional Accredited Independent Prescribing Programme17, Pharmacists can even prescribe drugs and then specialise in (for example): mental health, epilepsy, or diabetes.

Pharmacy is a diverse and flexible career; you can specialise in GP, Community, Hospital, or Pharmacy. You can work for big pharmaceutical companies, or even become an academic!


Pharmacists are much more knowledgeable then most realise!

From my experience working in Community Pharmacy, I’ve found that many people think that Pharmacists are only responsible for dispensing and selling medicines, when in fact they have extensive clinical knowledge and provide services such as the New Medicines Service18 and Medicines Use Review19 (this will be decommissioned in 2020/21 and replaced with another service). Pharmacists have the clinical knowledge so please use us! You do not need an appointment to speak to us!

The role of a Pharmacist is demanding due to the huge number of prescriptions, consultations, and the speed at which rules, regulations, and drugs change, so we always have to be 100% on the ball.  It is essential that Pharmacists are able to resolve patient concerns or queries in a short period of time. 

 Drugs | Qimono Pixabay

What are pharmacists doing for people with epilepsy?

Pharmacists are the experts of medicine and they have a role to play in the health care of those with epilepsy. There are 11,600 community pharmacies across England20 and therefore they are most accessible healthcare professionals (you might have guessed that we want to spread the word regarding this!). Pharmacists are there to check that a medicine is safe for a person to use (e.g. no clashes with other medications, allergies, etc.) and to discuss any side effects, drug interactions, and patient concerns.

We play a major role in terms of aiding people with epilepsy, for example: ensuring people are aware of the dangers21 of Sodium Valproate22 (Epilim and Depakote) during pregnancy, ensuring that appropriate information is always provided and that women are signed up to a pregnancy referral programme as the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency23 warn there is a 1in 10 risk of birth defects24.

In the UK almost 1 in 100 people have epilepsy25. It has been identified that people with epilepsy generally have poor adherence to their medications and that whilst only 52% of the population are currently seizure-free, up to 70% could be if they got/adhered to the right treatment(s) 25, hence we Pharmacists are here to help people adhere to their prescriptions through ongoing advice.


What am I doing now?

As a part of the final year of the Masters of Pharmacy degree26, we have to complete a sustained research project, and guess what area I’ve jumped into? Epilepsy!

I introduce you to the EsPE study27


 The EsPE Study

What is the EsPE study? Why are we doing it?

Are you a person with epilepsy? Do you care for someone with epilepsy? (This includes parents caring for children). Do you live in the UK and obtain medicines from a Community Pharmacy?


We need you in the EsPE Study!

My colleagues and I want to find out more about how Community Pharmacists are currently supporting people with epilepsy, and how we can further tailor our services to better meet their needs. We are looking for people who pick up their AEDs (Anti-Epileptic Drugs) from their Community Pharmacist in person; they might pick it up from a pharmacy on the high street, in the supermarket, at their village store, or their health centre.


No worries!

The questionnaire does not cover sensitive or upsetting issues and no personal or personally identifiable information is gathered.

Please take part! www.espestudy.squarespace.com it is LIVE until the end of November 2019.



We Pharmacists have a huge part to play in helping those in the community affected by epilepsy, hence the EsPE study. We need your opinion. Your opinion matters! What can Pharmacists do to make the care they provide for you better? How can Pharmacists support you with your epilepsy?


For more updates in the EsPE Study, please follow our twitter page @EpilepsyStudy and our Instagram page: epilepsystudymsp

Georgina Gillard      

Pharmacy Student at Medway School of Pharmacy

W: www.espestudy.squarespace.com


1.        Medway School of Pharmacy (MSP): https://www.msp.ac.uk/studying/index.html

2.        MSP: https://www.msp.ac.uk/

3.        Visit Kent: https://www.visitkent.co.uk/destinations/margate-broadstairs-and-ramsgate/ramsgate/

4.        Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom

5.        Paydens: http://www.paydens.com/

6.        Wizarding World: https://www.wizardingworld.com/

7.        007: https://www.007.com/

8.        IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898266/

9.        IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2467372/

10.     Channel4: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/friday-night-dinner

11.     Big Bang Theory: https://bigbangtheory.fandom.com/wiki/Sheldon_Cooper

12.     WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/brain/subdural-hematoma-symptoms-causes-treatments

13.     Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/careers-information/career-options-in-pharmacy/community-pharmacy

14.     Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmacology

15.     Health Careers NHS: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/pharmacy/roles-pharmacy/pharmacist

16.     Health Careers MHS: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/doctors/roles-doctors/general-practice-gp

17.     Pharmacy Regulation: https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/education/pharmacist-independent-prescriber/accredited-courses

18.     Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee: https://psnc.org.uk/services-commissioning/advanced-services/nms/

19.     Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee: https://psnc.org.uk/services-commissioning/advanced-services/murs/

20.     Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee: https://psnc.org.uk/psncs-work/about-community-pharmacy/

21.     Gov.UK: https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/valproate-medicines-epilim-depakote-pregnancy-prevention-programme-materials-online

22.     NICE: https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/sodium-valproate.html

23.     Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/medicines-and-healthcare-products-regulatory-agency

24.     Gov.UK: https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/valproate-medicines-epilim-depakote-contraindicated-in-women-and-girls-of-childbearing-potential-unless-conditions-of-pregnancy-prevention-programme-are-met

25.     Epilepsy Action: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/press/facts

26.     MSP: https://www.msp.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/index.html

27.     EsPE: https://espestudy.squarespace.com/