|Type of medicine||Anti-epileptic|
Infantile spasms (West's syndrome)
|Available as||Tablets and oral powder sachets|
If you have epilepsy, it means that you have had repeated seizures. A seizure is a short episode of symptoms caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in your brain. Different parts of the brain control different parts and functions of your body. Therefore, the symptoms that occur during a seizure depend on where the abnormal burst of electrical activity occurs. Symptoms that may occur during a seizure can affect your muscles, sensations, behaviour, emotions, consciousness, or a combination of these. With a focal (sometimes called 'partial') seizure, the burst of electrical activity stays in one part of the brain. Therefore, you tend to have localised or 'focal' symptoms.
Vigabatrin works by increasing the amount of a chemical in your brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This stabilises the electrical activity in your brain which prevents the seizures from occurring. You will have been given vigabatrin if your epilepsy is proving difficult to control. It is taken alongside other anti-epileptic medicines.
Vigabatrin is also helpful in West's syndrome which is a form of epilepsy occurring in infants and very young children.
Before taking vigabatrin
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 (or your child if you are their carer) start taking vigabatrin it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are over 65 years of age.
- If you have any eyesight problems.
- If you have kidney problems.
- If you have ever had any mental health problems such as depression.
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
- If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
How to take vigabatrin
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the brand of vigabatrin you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
- Take vigabatrin exactly as your specialist has told you. The dose of vigabatrin varies from one person to another depending on the other medicines also being taken (or body weight if it is for a child), so follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Your dose will also be on the label of your pack. You need to take vigabatrin regularly every day.
- When you first start taking vigabatrin, your specialist will give you a small dose and then gradually increase it. This allows your doctor to make sure that you have the dose that helps your condition and avoids any unwanted symptoms.
- You can take vigabatrin either before or after a meal.
- If you have been given vigabatrin sachets of powder for your child to take, each dose must be made up freshly. Stir the powder into half a glassful of water, milk or fruit juice to dissolve it, and then give it to your child to take straightaway.
- Try to take your doses of vigabatrin at the same times each day. This will help you to avoid missing any.
- 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.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Keep your regular appointments with your specialist or doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will also need to have regular eye tests while you are on vigabatrin.
- When you first start a new treatment for epilepsy there may be a change in the number or type of seizures you experience. Your doctor will advise you about this.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take. This is because some medicines and herbal remedies (such as St John's wort) should not be taken with vigabatrin.
- While you are taking vigabatrin, 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.
- Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping vigabatrin suddenly may cause problems and your doctor may want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
- 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 having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
- If you are a woman your doctor will advise you about which methods of contraception are suitable for you. If you want to have a family, make sure you discuss this with your doctor well in advance of becoming pregnant. This is so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant. If you become pregnant while you are taking vigabatrin, you must tell your doctor straightaway.
Can vigabatrin cause problems?
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 vigabatrin side-effects||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Double or blurred vision and other problems with eyesight (these affect about 1 in 3 people)||Let your doctor know about this as soon as possible|
|Feeling sleepy, dizzy, or tired||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. If the sleepiness becomes pronounced and affects your movements or consciousness, let your doctor know straightaway|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Feeling sick, abdominal pain||Stick to simple meals - avoid rich and spicy food|
|Increase in weight, problems with speech, numb feelings or tingling sensations, lack of concentration or co-ordination, shakiness, swollen feet or ankles, mood changes such as feeling agitated or depressed, and in children - restlessness and over excitement||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor for advice|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store vigabatrin
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Sabril® Tablets 500 mg; Manufacturer's PIL, Sabril® Tablets 500 mg, sanofi-aventis, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2010.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Sabril® Sachets 0.5 g; Manufacturer's PIL, Sabril® Sachets 0.5 g, sanofi-aventis, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2010.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen||Peer Reviewer: Dr Hannah Gronow|
|Last Checked: 14/03/2012||Document ID: 1510 Version: 26||© EMIS|
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.