Depakote® (Divalproex Sodium)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Reviewed March 2022 | Last updated: June 2022

Depakote® (divalproex sodium) is a valproate (anti-epiletic drug) that is indicated for the prevention of migraine in adults. It is taken by mouth as preventative therapy to reduce migraine frequency. Those with frequent migraine attacks or migraine who do not respond to acute treatment should consider preventive medications. There is no evidence that Depakote is useful in the acute treatment of migraine.

Depakote comes in 3 formulations: delayed-release tablets, extended-release tablets, and sprinkle capsules.

What are the ingredients in Depakote?

The active ingredient in Depakote is divalproex sodium.

How does Depakote work?

The precise way Depakote works to prevent migraine is unknown.

What are the possible side effects of Depakote?

Many clinical trials evaluated the safety and efficacy of Depakote. The most common side effects experienced by those taking Depakote include:

  • Bleeding problems
  • High ammonia levels in your blood
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Allergic reactions including rashes, hives and swelling
  • Feeling weak, drowsy, or tired
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Vision problems
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Dizziness

Depakote has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives to warn people about potential, serious side effects, including:3

  • Severe liver damage (hepatotoxicity)
  • Harm to an unborn baby (teratogenicity or neural tube defects)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Depakote. For more information, consult your doctor or healthcare provider. If you notice any new or worsening side effects when taking Depakote contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

Things to note about Depakote

Depakote is taken by mouth with water or other liquids. Dosing depends on the form of the medication prescribed. Depakote and Depakote ER are the two formulations generally prescribed for preventing migraine. Both are effective in reducing the frequency of migraine. The extended release tablets supply a steady stream of medication over 24 hours. Before starting Depakote talk with your doctor if you:

  • Have a history of hypersensitivity to divalproex sodium, valproic acid or sodium valproate
  • Drink alcohol
  • Have a history of liver problems
  • Have certain genetic conditions including urea cycle disorder or Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome
  • Take aspirin
  • Take other migraine medications
  • Take antibiotics
  • Take anti-depressants
  • Have a history of depression or suicidal ideation
  • Are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. Depakote is not recommended during pregnancy as it causes birth defects.

Individuals with the above conditions should be monitored closely while taking any form of Depakote.

Keep track of when you have migraine attacks and when you take Depakote so you can monitor its effectiveness, and communicate with your doctor about how the medication is working for you.

Before taking any form of Depakote make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Depakote and other medicines may impact each other, causing side effects.

Because Depakote can cause dizziness, weakness, and drowsiness, do not drive a car, use machinery, or do anything requiring you to be fully alert when taking this medication until you know how Depakote affects you.

For additional details, read the full prescribing information of Depakote products.

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