Gabapentin for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
gabapentin Neurontin

Gabapentin comes in capsules and pills.

How It Works

It is not known exactly how gabapentin prevents seizures.

Why It Is Used

Gabapentin may be used alone or combined with other antiepileptic medicines to control partial seizures in adults and in children ages 3 and older.

How Well It Works

People taking gabapentin in addition to other antiepileptic medicines may have fewer seizures.1

Gabapentin has not been shown to be effective for treating primary generalized seizures or childhood absence seizures.

Side Effects

Gabapentin is a well-tolerated drug that usually causes only mild side effects. These often go away in 1 to 2 weeks and include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness and fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Weight gain.
  • Foot swelling.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take antiepileptic medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take antiepileptic medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • Drug interactions. Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you are taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well, or it may affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking. Gabapentin may be a good choice if you are taking medicines for other conditions, because it does not interact with many other medicines.
  • Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
  • Other concerns. For some people, gabapentin may produce side effects or carry risks that are not fully known yet. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Jarrar RG, Buchhalter JR (2003). Therapeutics in pediatric epilepsy, part 1: The new antiepileptic drugs and the ketogenic diet. Mayo Clinical Procedures, 78(3): 359–370.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 26, 2011

Last Revised: August 26, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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