Depakote® is manufactured by Abbot Laboratories and known under the generic name of divalproex sodium. It is prescribed by doctors to treat certain seizure disorders, prevent migraine headaches or, more commonly, to help manage the symptoms of a manic episode in a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Depakote® comes in two formulations, Depakote® and Depakote® ER, or extended release. While both medications are coated for a slow release, Depakote® ER releases into the body more slowly than regular Depakote®. A medical professional will determine dosage depending upon the malady and its severity.
As with other medications, some patients experience side effects while taking Depakote®. Nausea, inability to sleep, and dizziness are the most commonly reported Depakote® side effects, along with drowsiness and asthenia. Indigestion, general abdominal pain and rashes were less frequently reported, but are still considered to be Depakote® side effects. More serious side effects such as chest pain, easy bruising, dark urine, yellowing of the eyes or skin and fast or irregular heartbeat should be reported to the doctor immediately. Any unusual or recurring side effects, no matter how minor, also should be reported to a doctor.
Depakote® works by increasing a nerve-calming chemical that is naturally produced by the brain, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Some people, such as those with bipolar disorder, may naturally lack enough GABA to calm themselves down during manic episodes. Depakote® also works to slow the breakdown of GABA to an acceptable speed, so that the brain has time to utilize and process it. Depakote® affects every person differently, which is why it is important to keep follow-up appointments with the doctor. The doctor needs to be apprised of any side effects and monitor the patient for more serious, but rare, side effects that may occur, such as liver damage and severe weight gain.
Because of the possibility of the more serious Depakote® side effects, it is generally not prescribed to those with active liver disease or failure, a family history of liver problems or certain hereditary blood disorders. Depakote® is not indicated for use among pregnant women, as another side effect is an increase in congenital birth defects. Those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should discuss this with their doctors. Patients also may want to discuss whether the medication’s benefits outweigh the risk of Depakote® side effects.
Depakote® may interfere with the efficacy of other medications. For example, with some seizure medications, it has been found to reduce their effect on a person's system. Aspirin and some antidepressants may increase Depakote®’s side effects. Stopping Depakote® without consulting a medical professional is not recommended, as adverse effects can occur, and withdrawal symptoms are reported to be serious.