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Feb 14, 2024


Anti-seizure Drug

7 Facts About Valproic Acid

1. Valproic Acid is Approved to Treat Seizures

Valproic acid (VPA) is an anti-seizure medication that has been approved by the FDA to treat seizures in two specific patient populations.

  • use as an individual or additional medication in the treatment of absence seizures (simple or complex) or for complex partial seizures
  • use as additional medication therapy in management of patients who have a combination of seizure types specifically including absence seizures. 

Complex partial seizures are seizures that both begin in one part of the brain and are associated with impaired levels of consciousness. 

Absence seizures are seizures that present as an individual experiencing a period with both a lack of awareness and responsiveness to external stimuli. 

Read about Types of Seizures

2. Valproic Acid Works By Balancing The Brain’s Electrical Activity

Seizures are caused by a dysregulation of electrical activity in the brain. Seizure treatment is tailored toward preventing this dysregulation and/or stopping them once they have begun. Most antiepileptic medications therefore work to counteract seizure activity in the brain.

Valproic acid works to stabilize the brain against uncontrolled electrical activity. Though it is not fully understood how VPA does this, it is likely through the increase of certain neurotransmitters that then lead to decreased (unwanted) electrical activity in the brain. Though it is effective for seizure prevention/treatment, it is no longer a common anti-seizure medication due to its safety risks, especially in women of childbearing potential.

3. Use of Valproic Acid Comes With Serious Risks

There are several warnings given when an individual begins treatment with valproic acid. This is due to the rare, but very serious, conditions that can arise during the use of this medication. The potentially dangerous conditions include:

  • Pancreatitis
    Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas. There have been occasions where very severe pancreatitis has occurred when taking VPA. This occurs suddenly at any point during VPA therapy. It typically presents as severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If these symptoms suddenly occur while taking VPA, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Liver failure mitochondrial disease
    • Life-threatening liver failure has also occurred in individuals during the course of their treatment with valproic acid. This typically occurs within the first 6-months of therapy, meaning there’s a shorter timeframe to watch for.
    • Because of this risk, caution must be used in certain groups when taking VPA. This includes those with a history of liver disease, those with metabolic disorder and most considerably those with mitochondrial disease.
      People with mitochondrial disease cannot take VPA due to the highly increased risk of experiencing life-threatening liver failure.

Learn more about the risks of long-term anti-seizure medication.

4. There Are 7 Common Side Effects of Valproic Acid

As with any medication, there is a potential to experience side effects when taking valproic acid. The 7 most common side effects of valproic acid include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach upset
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Drowsiness

While most of the side effects fade with time, they are very bothersome to some people. Make sure to speak with your healthcare provider is you experience side effects that are intolerable and/or interfering with adherence to your medication

5. You Can Not Take Valproic Acid if You Are Pregnant or Planning to Become Pregnant

Many anti-seizure medications should not be taken during pregnancy due to the possible risk of adverse effects to the fetus. With valproic acid this risk is so severe that is not usually considered a treatment option at all in women of childbearing potential, in order to eliminate the risk of pregnancy completely. This is because of the very high risk of both physical and neurological defects occurring in the fetus when valproic acid is taken by a mother during pregnancy.

If there is no safe and effective alternative for epilepsy treatment, valproic acid can be considered in women as long as she consents to the conditions of the pregnancy prevention program (PPP). This program includes but is not limited to, ensuring that the patient:

  • is educated on and understands the severe risks to the fetus if pregnancy were to occur
  • undergoes a pregnancy test before VPA is started and throughout pregnancy when required (ie: following a missed period)
  • is counselled on and agrees to comply with appropriate contraception/pregnancy prevention
  • agrees to urgently consult their physician if they becomes pregnant or suspect pregnancy
  • agrees to speak with their healthcare provider about alternative treatment options if they decide they would like to become pregnant in the near future.

6. Certain Medications Should Not be Taken at the Same Time as Valproic Acid

Due to the way that valproic acid works in the body, there is a potential for it interact with the way that other medications work in the body. Most of these interactions change the amount of one or both medications in the body, and therefore may require dose increase or decreases or one or both medications. It is very important to speak with your healthcare provider about any and all medications you are taking before starting valproic acid.

Some interactions may be extremely dangerous and lead to dangerous effects. These include:

  • Phenobarbital
    In rare occasions there have been comas when patients were taking both valproic acid and phenobarbital. This combination should be avoided.
  • Lamotrigine
    Sometimes when taken in combination with valproic acid, there have been severe skin reactions reported, such as Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). These are very serious reactions and require immediate medical intervention.

7. At Marley Drug, You Can Get Your Valproic Acid Prescription For Less Than $6 Per Month

At Marley Drug, you can save money by buying your valproic acid prescription in a longer supply. A 6-month supply of the medication costs $55.55, and a full 12-month supply costs $83.10, amounting to less than $7 per month!

Since valproic acid is typically taken long-term, it is both convenient and cost-effective to buy your medication in longer supply. You are not only able to reduce the frequency of trips to the pharmacy, but you also avoid paying multiple pharmacy dispensing fees from multiple prescription pickups throughout the year.

We are able to offer low prices because we buy our medications from accredited wholesalers rather than insurance companies. This way, we bypass the step that is usually responsible for hiking up drug costs for consumers. You can get your medications from Marley Drug at prices competitive with even the best insurance plans.

Learn more about our pricing model.

To learn more about how you can get your valproic acid prescription from Marley Drug, just call us at 1-800-810-7790

Prices mentioned in this article are based on average retail price at major box chain pharmacy in the U.S. as of January 3, 2023.
  1. pms-Valproic Acid – Access data FDA-Approved Drugs [Internet]. [Amended 03/2017; accessed 01/2023].

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