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Valproic acid


What is valproic acid?

Valproic acid (also called Depakote® or Depakene®) is used to prevent seizures. It is also used to treat some psychiatric illnesses and to prevent migraine headaches. Valproic acid is available in several forms taken by mouth:

  • For immediate-release, a 50-mg/ml red syrup, a 125-mg blue-and-white sprinkle capsule, and a 250-mg orange soft gelatin capsule
  • For extended-release, a 125-mg red tablet, a 250-mg peach tablet, and a 500-mg pink tablet

It is also available as a clear liquid given by vein.

How to give valproic acid

  • The sprinkle capsule may be swallowed whole or sprinkled on soft food, such as applesauce or pudding. Do not chew the food containing the sprinkles. Eat all the soft food to receive the entire dose.
  • The delayed release tablets and the soft gelatin capsule should be swallowed whole. Do not cut or crush the capsules or tablets.
  • Do not mix the syrup with soda pop drinks.
  • Take valproic acid with food if stomach upset occurs.

Possible side effects of valproic acid


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling dizzy, drowsy, and unsteady

Later (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Stomach pain and indigestion
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Decreased coordination
  • Feeling dizzy, drowsy, and unsteady
  • Tired feeling
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitated and irritable
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremor
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin rash
  • Hair loss
  • Temporary changes in liver function
  • Easy bruising, unusual bleeding
  • Low blood counts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Allergic reaction with symptoms of fever, rash, swelling of face and lips, and muscle aches

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for valproic acid

  • Do not stop taking this medicine until your doctor tells you to do so. If you stop taking it without being told, your chances of having a seizure may increase.
  • Store valproic acid at room temperature.
  • The doctor will slowly increase your dose of valproic acid when you first begin taking it.
  • This medicine may cause you to feel dizzy and drowsy. Do not operate heavy equipment or drive a motor vehicle until you see how this medicine will affect you.
  • If you develop a rash after starting valproic acid, you may be allergic to this medicine. Call your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse right away.
  • It is very important that you take valproic acid exactly as directed. This will keep the blood levels constant during the day and night. If you miss a dose, follow these guidelines:
    • If the next dose is not due for at least 4 hours, take the missed dose right away.
    • If the next dose is due in less than 4 hours, do not take the missed dose. Take the next dose at the scheduled time. Never take a double dose unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you to do so.
  • Valproic acid may affect the way other medicines work. These medicines include warfarin and other seizure medicines.
  • Several medicines can increase the side effects of valproic acid or increase the blood level of valproic acid. These include:
    • Other seizure medicines
    • Pain medicines
    • Antihistamines (including over-the counter sleeping pills and allergy medicines, such as Benadryl®)
    • Aspirin
    • Sedatives
    • Rifampin
  • Alcohol (found in many over-the-counter cough/cold medicines) can increase the drowsy feeling caused by valproic acid.
  • Always tell your doctor if you are taking any of these medicines, or if you start taking any new medicine while taking valproic acid.
  • The staff will draw blood samples regularly to check for changes in liver function.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).