- What is valproic acid, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What brand names are available for valproic acid?
- Is valproic acid available as a generic drug?
- Do I need a prescription for valproic acid?
- What are the side effects of valproic acid?
- What is the dosage for valproic acid?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with valproic acid?
- Is valproic acid safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about valproic acid?
What is valproic acid, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
Valproic acid and its derivative, divalproex, are oral drugs that are used for the treatment of convulsions, migraines and bipolar disorder. The active ingredient in both products is valproic acid. Divalproex is converted to valproic acid in the stomach. Scientists do not know the mechanism of action of valproic acid. The most popular theory is that valproic acid exerts its effects by increasing the concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves use to communicate with one another. The FDA approved valproic acid in February, 1978 and divalproex in March 1983.
What brand names are available for valproic acid?
Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakote Sprinkle, Depakene, Depacon, Stavzor
Is valproic acid available as a generic drug?
GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes
Do I need a prescription for valproic acid?
What are the side effects of valproic acid?
The most common side effects with valproic acid therapy are:
Divalproex may have a lower incidence of stomach upset, and taking valproic acid or divalproex with food can reduce the stomach upset. Valproic acid also causes skin reactions such as alopecia (loss of hair), rash, itching and sensitivity to sunlight.
The most serious side effects due to valproic acid are liver injury, pancreatitis and abnormal bleeding. Liver injury is most common in the first 6 months of treatment. It also is more common in children, especially children less than two years old. Persons taking more than one type of anticonvulsant seem to be at higher risk. Symptoms of liver damage include jaundice, malaise, weakness, swelling in the face, loss of appetite and vomiting. Pancreatitis due to valproic acid can occur early in treatment or after several years of use. Symptoms of pancreatitis are unexplained weight loss, nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Valproic acid inhibits the formation of blood clots by interfering with the clot-promoting effects of platelets. This can cause abnormal bleeding.
Antiepileptic medications have been associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. Anyone considering the use of antiepileptic drugs must balance this risk of suicide with the clinical need for the antiepileptic drug. Patients who begin antiepileptic therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening, suicidal thoughts or unusual changes in behavior.
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