Generic name: Valproic acidBrand names: Depakene
Depakene, an epilepsy medicine, is used to treat certain types of seizures and convulsions. It may be prescribed alone or with other anticonvulsant medications.
Depakene can cause serious, even fatal, liver damage, especially during the first 6 months of treatment. Children under 2 years of age are the most vulnerable, especially if they are also taking other anticonvulsant medicines and have certain other disorders such as mental retardation. The risk of liver damage decreases with age; but you should always be alert for the following symptoms: loss of seizure control, weakness, dizziness, drowsiness, a general feeling of ill health, facial swelling, loss of appetite, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. If you suspect a liver problem, call your doctor immediately.
Note too that Depakene has been known to cause rare cases of life-threatening damage to the pancreas. This problem can develop at any time, even after years of treatment. Call your doctor immediately if any of the following warning signs appear: abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
If Depakene irritates your digestive system, take it with food. To avoid irritating your mouth and throat, swallow Depakene capsules whole; do not chew them.
If you take more than 1 dose a day and you remember the missed dose within 6 hours of the scheduled time, take it immediately. Take the rest of the doses for that day at equally spaced intervals. Never take 2 doses at once.
Side effects are more likely if you are taking more than one epilepsy medication, and when you are taking higher doses of Depakene. Indigestion, nausea, and vomiting are the most common side effects when you first start taking Depakene.
If any side effects develop or change in intensity, inform your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Depakene.
You should not take Depakene if you have liver disease or your liver is not functioning properly, or if you have had an allergic reaction to it.
Remember that liver failure is possible when taking Depakene (see "Most important fact about Depakene"). Your doctor should test your liver function at regular intervals.
Also keep in mind the threat of damage to the pancreas (see "Most important fact about Depakene"). This problem can develop rapidly, so contact your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms.
In people with a rare set of genetic abnormalities called urea cycle disorders, Depakene may adversely effect the brain. Signs of a developing problem include lack of energy, repeated attacks of vomiting, and mental changes. If you suspect a problem, see your doctor immediately. Depakene may have to be discontinued.
Depakene has also been known to cause a very rare but potentially fatal skin condition. Contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin.
Some side effects are more likely if you have manic episodes or suffer from migraines. Your doctor will monitor your care closely if you have one of these conditions.
Because of the potential for side effects involving blood disorders, your doctor will probably test your blood before prescribing Depakene and at regular intervals while you are taking it. Bruising, hemorrhaging, or clotting disorders usually mean the dosage should be reduced or the drug should be stopped altogether.
Depakene may cause drowsiness, especially in older adults. You should not drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in hazardous activity until you know how you react to the drug.
Do not abruptly stop taking this medicine without first consulting your doctor. A gradual reduction in dosage is usually required to prevent major seizures.
This drug can also increase the effect of painkillers and anesthetics. Before any surgery or dental procedure, make sure the doctor knows you are taking Depakene.
If Depakene is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Depakene with the following:AmitriptylineAspirinBarbiturates such as phenobarbital and secobarbitalBlood-thinning drugs such as warfarinCarbamazepineClonazepamDiazepamEthosuximideFelbamateLamotrigineMeropenem for injectionNortriptylinePhenytoinPrimidoneRifampinTolbutamideZidovudine
Extreme drowsiness and other serious effects may occur if Depakene is taken with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants such as alprazolam, temazepam, or triazolam.
If taken during pregnancy, Depakene may harm the baby. The drug is not recommended for pregnant women unless the benefits of therapy clearly outweigh the risks. In fact, women in their childbearing years should take Depakene only if it has been shown to be essential in the control of seizures. Since Depakene appears in breast milk, nursing mothers should use it only with caution.
ADULTS AND CHILDREN 10 OR OLDER
The usual starting dose is 10 to 15 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day. Your doctor may increase the dose at weekly intervals by 5 to 10 milligrams per 2.2 pounds per day until seizures are controlled or side effects become too severe. If stomach upset develops, the dose may be increased more slowly. The daily dose should not exceed 60 milligrams per 2.2 pounds per day.
Older adults generally are prescribed reduced starting doses, and receive dosage increases more gradually than younger people.
Any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. An overdose of Depakene can be fatal. If you suspect an overdose, seek medical help immediately.