Sodium valproate for epilepsy

  • Read the information leaflet from inside your pack. It will tell you how to take the brand of sodium valproate you have been given.
  • You will need to have regular blood tests while you are taking sodium valproate.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking this medicine as this may cause your symptoms to return.
  • If you develop abdominal pain, sickness, jaundice or unexplained bruising or bleeding, tell your doctor straight away.
Type of medicine Antiepileptic
Used for Epilepsy
Also called Convulex® (as valproic acid)
Epilim®, Epilim Chrono®, Epilim Chronosphere®, Epilim® EC
Episenta®
Epival® CR
Orlept®
Available as Tablets, and oral liquid
Modified-release tablets, capsules, and granules
Injection

Sodium valproate works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain, and so reducing fits.

There is also a medicine with a similar name which is used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. There is a separate information leaflet called 'Semisodium valproate for bipolar disorder' which explains about this.

Before taking sodium valproate make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you or a member of your family have liver problems.
  • If you suffer from disorders of urea production in the liver.
  • If you have systemic lupus erythematosus (an inflammatory condition also called lupus or SLE).
  • If you have porphyria (a rare blood disorder).
  • If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Take sodium valproate exactly as your doctor has told you.
  • When you first start taking sodium valproate you may be started on a low dose which will then be increased slowly until your doctor finds the dose that is best for you.
  • Some formulations of sodium valproate should be taken after food and others must be swallowed whole. Check the label and the printed information leaflet from the packet for instructions about taking the preparation you have been given, or alternatively ask your pharmacist.
  • Try to take sodium valproate at the same times each day to avoid missing any doses.
  • If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Each time you collect a new supply of this medicine from your pharmacy, make sure it looks to be the same as you have had before. If you are unsure, ask your pharmacist to check.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. You will need to have blood tests before you start this medicine and while you are taking it.
  • As sodium valproate may cause your weight to increase, try to eat a balanced diet and take regular exercise.
  • Drinking alcohol is not recommended during treatment with sodium valproate
  • Do not suddenly stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to, as this is likely to make your symptoms return.
  • People with epilepsy must stop driving at first. Your doctor will advise you about when it may be possible for you to resume driving again. This will usually be after a year free of seizures.
  • If you are a woman and want to have a family, make sure you discuss this with your doctor. This is so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant.
  • While you are being treated for epilepsy there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes, distressing thoughts and feelings about suicide. If this happens, tell your doctor straight away.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking sodium valproate.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with sodium valproate.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Hair loss This is usually temporary and regrowth normally begins within a few months (although the hair may become curlier than before)
Feeling sick, stomach irritation These may occur when you first start taking sodium valproate but soon disappear. Try eating small but frequent meals. Stick to simple foods
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids
Feeling sleepy If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol

Important: if you develop any of the following rare side-effects, let your doctor know straight away:

  • An unexplained cough or sore throat.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Abdominal pain, sickness, dark urine or jaundice.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you have taken, or someone else has taken, an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Last Checked:
14/03/2012
Document ID:
1506 (v27)
© EMIS
The Information Standard - certified member