In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for divalproex sodium, trade name DepakoteTM and Depakote ERTM.
What it’s for & How to take
Divalproex is an anti-seizure medication. This medication works by decreasing nerve signals in the brain. This process helps restore normal nerve activity.
Divalproex is used to prevent and control seizures. This medication is also used to help stabilize the mania portion of bipolar disorder.
Divalproex is sometimes used to prevent or decrease the frequency of migraine headaches. Divalproex will not treat a migraine once it is occurring. If you already have a migraine, treat it as directed by your health care provider.
This medication is sometimes used to treat other conditions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you are prescribed this medication to treat something that is not listed here.
Divalproex comes in two forms, a delayed release form called DepakoteTM and an extended release form called Depakote ERTM. These two products are not interchangeable and are not bioequivalent. When changing from one product to another, the dose will need to be adjusted. DepakoteTM is usually taken 2-3 times daily while Depakote ERTM is usually taken once daily unless directed otherwise by your doctor.
This medication may be taken with food. Take your dose at evenly spaced intervals to maintain a constant level of medication in your body. Swallow the tablets whole. Do not crush or chew the tablet because it will irritate the throat and change the delayed or extended release mechanism of the medication.
Your dose is based on your condition, weight, and response to treatment. Do not stop taking this medication without talking to your doctor first. Some conditions may worsen if this medication is stopped quickly.
If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip it and continue with your normal dose time. Do not take a double dose to make up the missed dose.
Most Important Warnings
- Serious or fatal liver failure has been reported, usually within the first 6 months of therapy. The liver failure is preceded by weakness, swelling, vomiting and loss of seizure control. The risk is greatest in children less than 2 years old and decreases as age increases. Notify your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms. Ask your doctor how often they want to monitor your liver tests.
- Divalproex, when taken during pregnancy, may cause serious harm to an unborn baby. This medication is not to be used in pregnant women for migraine prophylaxis. Only use in pregnant, epileptic women if no alternative options can be used. Women of childbearing age who require this medication must use effective contraception.
- Life-threatening pancreatitis has been reported in both children and adults. Call your doctor right away if you have any symptoms of pancreatitis such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and anorexia.
Other Warnings & Cautions
- While taking divalproex, a small number of people may experience depression or suicidal thoughts. Let your doctor know if you or your family notices any unusual changes in your mood.
- The elderly may be more sensitive to the side effects of this medication, especially the tremor or drowsiness.
- Infants born to mothers who are taking divalproex are at risk. This medication should only be used during pregnancy when the benefit to the mother is greater than the risk to the unborn baby. This medication passes into breast milk. Talk with your doctor before breastfeeding while taking divalproex.
- This medication may make you dizzy, drowsy, or blur your vision. Do not drive or do any activity that requires focus and attention until you are sure you can do them safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages while taking divalproex.
Interactions & Side Effects
- Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if divalproex is safe for you to take.
- Avoid dangerous drug interactions. This medication interacts with your liver and may interact with many other medications. Tell your pharmacist or doctor all the other medication you are taking, including over the counter supplements, even if you don’t take them very often.
- Ask your doctor if this medication is safe to take with your current health conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any history of liver or kidney disease, pancreatitis, dementia or a history of depression or substance abuse.
- While taking divalproex, you may feel a decrease in balance, dizzy, blurred vision, tremor, confusion, or some swelling your hands and feet. If these or any other unwanted side effects persist, contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about it with them.
- Call your doctor right away if you have any seizures, flu symptoms such as fever or swollen glands, chest pain or abnormal heartbeat, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, or any other significant side effects.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you have a significant worsening of your mood or experience any suicidal thoughts.
- Call emergency 911 if you have any symptoms of a heart attack such as chest and left arm pain, shortness of breath, and sweating or if you have symptoms of a stroke such as weakness on one side of your body, slurred speech, sudden vision changes, and confusion.
If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.