Meds and you

30 September 2013

Sodium Valproate

Sodium valproate is an anticonvulsant. Anticonvulsants are drugs that are used to treat or prevent convulsions, i.e. the seizures seen in epilepsy.


(Also known as Valproic acid and Valproate sodium)

Sodium Valproate is the active ingredient of Convulse (Nappi Code: 715980-009, 715999-001 & 781568-005), Convulse Syrup (Nappi Code: 781541-018), Exilic CR tabs (Nappi Code: 818666-005, 818674-008 & 818682-019), Exilic Liquid (Nappi Code: 780545-001) and Exilic injection (Nappi Code: 821551-019).

General information
Sodium valproate is an anticonvulsant. Anticonvulsants are drugs that are used to treat or prevent convulsions, i.e. the seizures seen in epilepsy.

In South Africa Sodium valproate is registered for the treatment of all seizure types including partial seizures, a seizure that starts in one particular part of the brain, petit mal epilepsy, a type of epilepsy which can be described as brief clouding of consciousness, and generalised seizures, seizures that originate in several parts of the brain.

Although not registered for this use, it is often prescribed for the prevention of migraine and for treatment of the acute manic phase in bipolar disorder.

For best epileptic control, you should not be switched to a generic equivalent once your epilepsy is under control.

Do not stop using this antiepileptic drug abruptly as it may cause a recurrence of seizures. It is advised that you decrease your dose gradually, and only as directed by your doctor.

Sodium valproate may deplete folic acid levels in your body if taken long-term. A folic acid supplement or plenty of fresh, green vegetables as part of your diet is advised.

Because valproate may cause dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation, driving and any hazardous tasks should be avoided until you know how this medication affects you.

How does sodium valproate work?
Antiepileptic medication act on the brain to increase the seizure threshold, and to prevent the spread of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 3
Available as: sodium valproate is available as capsules, tablets, injection and as a syrup.
What does it do? Sodium valproate is an anticonvulsant drug
. Overdose risk: medium
Dependence risk: low
Is Sodium Valproate available as a generic? no
Is Sodium Valproate available on prescription only? yes

User information

Onset of effect: within 2 hours
Duration of action: up to 12 hours
Dietary advice: because sodium valproate may cause stomach upset, it should best be taken with food. A diet rich in fresh, green vegetables is also recommended to supplement folic acid.
Stopping this medicine: do not stop using sodium valproate abruptly as it may lead to the return of seizures. It is advised that you decrease your dose gradually, and only as directed by your doctor.
Prolonged use: periodic blood tests are required to monitor the levels of the drug in the body.

Special precautions
Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

Pregnancy: avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.
Breastfeeding: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.
Porphyria: avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.
Infants and children: this medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 3.
The elderly: caution is advised in the elderly as side effects may occur more frequently.
Driving and hazardous work: caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.
Alcohol: avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication.

Possible side effects

Side Effect
Consult your doctor

Only if severe
In all cases




increased appetite


hair loss








severe abdominal pain


unusual bleeding/bruising


skin rash


hearing loss




alcohol enhanced CNS depression
sleeping tablets enhanced CNS depression
benzodiazepines increased risk of benzodiazepine toxicity
lamotrigine increased risk of lamotrigine toxicity
mono Amine Oxidase Inhibitors increased risk of MAOI toxicity
warfarin increased risk of bleeding

Many other drugs may interact with sodium valproate. It is important to consult your doctor or pharmacist before combining any drug with valproate.

Disease interactions
Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have been diagnosed with a blood disorder, porphyria, a kidney or liver disease or if you are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant, or you have diabetes.

Overdose action
A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose seek emergency medical attention.

Recommended dosage
Adults: oral, 600 mg - 2.5 mg daily

Interesting fact
Temporary hair loss has been seen in some patients who have been treated with this drug. The re-growth has been noted to be curlier than before.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.