Semisodium valproate for bipolar disorder

  • Swallow these tablets whole, without chewing or crushing them.
  • Take each dose after a meal.
  • Each time you collect a new supply of tablets, make sure they look the same as you have had before.
  • If you develop abdominal pain, sickness, jaundice or unexplained bruising or bleeding, tell your doctor straightaway.
Type of medicine Antimanic
Used for Treatment of mania in bipolar disorder
Also called Depakote®
Available as Gastro-resistant tablets

Bipolar disorder is a long-term condition where you have periods of depression (lows) and periods of mania or hypomania (highs).

Semisodium valproate is used as a mood stabiliser in bipolar disorder and is a mixture of two ingredients - valproic acid and sodium valproate. It will have been given to you to prevent or treat episodes of mania caused by bipolar disorder. Semisodium valproate stabilises the levels of chemicals in your brain which affect your mood. This decreases the intensity and frequency of the manic episodes you experience.

Semisodium valproate may also be used to help prevent migraines. This leaflet does not contain information about this. If you have been given it for this reason, ask your doctor if you have any questions about your treatment.

There is also a similar medicine which is used in the treatment of epilepsy. There is a separate medicine leaflet called 'Sodium valproate for epilepsy' which explains about this.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking semisodium valproate it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are under 18 years of age.
  • If you are woman who could become pregnant.
  • If you or anyone in your family have liver problems.
  • If you have kidney problems.
  • If you have systemic lupus erythematosus (this is an inflammatory condition also called lupus or SLE).
  • If you have porphyria (this is a rare inherited 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 you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the brand of semisodium valproate you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
  • Take semisodium valproate exactly as your doctor has told you. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many tablets to take and when to take them. Your dose will also be on the label of your pack.
  • Take your doses with a snack or just after eating a meal. Swallow the tablets whole - do not chew or crush them. This is because they have a special protective coating.
  • Try to take semisodium valproate at the same times each day. This will help you 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.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You also may need to have tests from time to time.
  • 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 for you.
  • These tablets will not normally be prescribed for you if you are a woman who could become pregnant. Only in certain circumstances (and if you are using effective contraception) will they be prescribed for you. If this affects you because you could become pregnant, you must discuss this with your doctor before you take these tablets.
  • While you are taking semisodium valproate, there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes or distressing feelings, and thoughts about suicide. If this happens, you must tell your doctor straightaway.
  • Keep taking these tablets until your doctor tells you otherwise. Stopping suddenly can cause problems and your doctor may want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
  • Before having any kind of surgery, including dental and emergency treatment, tell your doctor, dentist or surgeon that you are taking semisodium valproate.
  • If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice before taking semisodium valproate and alcohol. Your doctor may recommended you do not drink alcohol while you are on this medicine.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take. This is because some painkillers such as aspirin interfere with semisodium valproate and are best avoided.
  • If you have diabetes, semisodium valproate can affect the results of urine tests. If this affects you, ask your doctor or diabetes nurse for advice, as you may need to test your blood instead.

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 semisodium valproate side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sick, stomach irritation Stick to simple meals - avoid rich and spicy food
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace the lost fluids
Increased appetite and weight gain Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and increase the amount of exercise you do
Feeling sleepy or dizzy If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines
Thinning of your hair Your hair will grow back but it may be curlier than before

Important: if you develop any of the following rare but serious side-effects, let your doctor know straightaway, as these may signs of a problem with your blood or liver:

  • A high temperature, unexplained cough or sore throat.
  • Any unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Any severe abdominal pain, sickness, dark urine or signs of jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes).

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • 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 someone 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
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Depakote┬« tablets,; Manufacturer's PIL, Depakote┬« tablets, sanofi-aventis, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated January 2011.

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:
3233 (v24)
© EMIS
The Information Standard - certified member