A complete list of common and rare Valproic Acid side effects
Depakote (also known as valproic acid) side effects vary from the upsetting—hair loss, insomnia, and weight gain—to the life-threatening: serious liver damage has been reported as one of the most serious valproic acid side effects in children under the age of two, people who are taking more than one anti-epileptic drug, and people with any sort of developmental delays. (1)
One of the most serious valproic acid side effects is the drug's relationship to birth defects: first-trimester exposure to valproic acid is associated with an increased risk for spina bifida, compared with no use of anti-epileptic drugs or with use of other anti-epileptic drugs. (2)
First-trimester exposure to valproic acid is also associated with an increased risk for 5 other congenital [present at birth] malformations: atrial septal defect [a heart defect that leads to heart and respiratory problems], cleft palate, hypospadias [when the urethra is on the underside, not the tip, of the penis], polydactyly [extra fingers], and craniosynostosis [unusual head shape]. (2)
Of all the valproic acid side effects, birth defects, liver damage, suicidal thoughts, and worsened seizures in those who suffer from epilepsy are the most severe. These are the valproic acid side effects your prescribing doctor should take the most care to warn you of, especially if you or your child are especially at risk.
This article focuses on three of the most common valproic acid side effects: weight gain, hair loss, and insomnia. Though these are not as medically dangerous as liver failure, the onset of suicidal thoughts, or birth defects, these more common valproic acid side effects affect your health and your quality of life.
For over twenty years, Weitz & Luxenberg has helped people whose lives have been altered for the worse by the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs they were prescribed. If you have been hurt by valproic acid side effects, you may want to contact a lawyer to learn more about your options for seeking compensation.
Common valproic acid side effects: weight gain, hair loss, and insomnia
During clinical studies of Depakote (also known as divalproex sodium, a form of valproic acid), weight gain was most common in those using the drug for migraine prevention or the treatment of complex partial seizures. (3)
Up to 9 percent of people taking Depakote (valproic acid) reported weight gain. This was most common in people taking the drug for migraine prevention (8 percent) or for complex partial seizures (9 percent), as opposed to those taking it for bipolar disorder.(3)
In case you are wondering the significance of 9 percent, consider that during clinical trials, researchers separate side effects into those that occur in more than 1 percent of people (which are then considered common side effects) and those that occur in less than 1 percent of people (rare side effects).(3) Nine percent is common enough to warrant concern.
In clinical studies for Depakote (a brand name drug using valproic acid), hair loss was reported in up to 24 percent of people who took the medication. It was most common in people taking Depakote for epilepsy and less common in those taking the medicine for other conditions such as bipolar disorder, migraine prevention, or one of the many off-label uses for valproic acid.(4)
As with the two valproic acid side effects detailed above, insomnia is a side effect that primarily affects patients who take the drug to treat any sort of epilepsy: “Insomnia is a common side effect of Depakote, occurring in up to 15 percent of people taking the drug alone for complex partial seizures.” (5)
Insomnia was not reported as a common side effect in people taking Depakote (valproic acid) for other uses. In fact, Depakote often causes drowsiness in people taking Depakote to treat other conditions. If you experience insomnia while taking valproic acid, your doctor may recommend trying insomnia medications, adjusting the dosage, or trying another anti-epileptic, bipolar, or migraine medication.(5)
Valproic acid side effects and your well-being
It is up to you and your healthcare provider to decide together what valproic acid side effects are acceptable to you. Neither you or your doctor can predict which, if any, valproic acid side effects you may experience. It is possible to make an educated guess using information about your family's medical history and your own medical history, and the drugs you are currently taking.
If you have already experienced damaging valproic acid side effects and would like to learn more about your legal options for seeking compensation, contact Weitz & Luxenberg at 1-800-476-6070 or fill out a form to receive your free legal consultation.
Was Depakote Recalled? Learn about the Depakote recall in 2006 and 2009, and other Depakote FDA news
the FDA did not recall Depakote, but it did issue a warning to avoid taking it during pregnancy due to the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida.
Birth Defects The FDA warned of Depakote birth defects in 2009
Depakote has been linked to birth defects including spina bifida. If you took Depakote while pregnant, and your child has a birth defect, we can help.
Depakote Have you or your child experienced Depakote side effects?
Depakote is associated with several side effects. However, if you took Depakote while pregnant, you child could be at risk for birth defects.