Depakote (divalproex sodium)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023 | Last updated: May 2023

Depakote® (divalproex sodium) is an anticonvulsant drug that is approved for the prevention of migraine in adults. It is taken by mouth as a preventative therapy to reduce migraine frequency.1-3

Depakote comes in 3 formulations:1-3

  • Delayed-release tablets
  • Extended-release tablets
  • Delayed-release capsules

What are the ingredients in Depakote?

The active ingredient in Depakote is divalproex sodium.1-3

How does Depakote work?

Doctors are not exactly sure how Depakote works to prevent migraine. They believe it helps prevent migraine by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA slows down the brain by blocking certain signals in your brain and spinal cord.1-4

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Depakote include:1-3

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty walking or problems with coordination
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Hair loss
  • Swelling of your arms or legs
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Increased appetite, weight gain
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bronchitis
  • Flu-like symptoms

Depakote has a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has this warning because it may cause:1-3

  • Severe liver damage (hepatotoxicity)
  • Harm to an unborn baby
  •  Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

These are not all the possible side effects of Depakote. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking Depakote. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking Depakote.

Other things to know

Before starting treatment with Depakote, tell your doctor if you:1-3

  • Have or have had liver problems
  • Have a genetic liver problem caused by a mitochondrial disorder such as Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome
  • Drink alcohol
  • Have or have had depression, thoughts of self-harm, or unusual changes in mood

Depakote can harm an unborn baby. If you or your partner can become pregnant, you should use birth control during treatment and for some time after the last dose of Depakote. You should also not breastfeed during treatment with Depakote and for some time after the last dose. Talk to your doctor about your options for birth control and breastfeeding while taking Depakote.1-3

Do not drink alcohol while taking Depakote. Depakote and alcohol can affect each other and cause side effects like sleepiness and dizziness.1-3

Do not drive a car, operate machinery, or do dangerous activities while taking Depakote. Depakote can slow your thinking and motor skills and may affect your vision.1-3

Using Depakote with some other medicines can cause serious side effects. Before starting treatment with Depakote, tell your doctor if you take:1-3

  • Medicines that can affect how the liver breaks down other drugs, such as phenytoin, carbamazepine, felbamate, phenobarbital, primidone, or rifampin
  • Aspirin, carbapenem antibiotics, or estrogen-containing hormonal contraceptives
  • Methotrexate
  • Topiramate
  • Cannabidiol

Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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