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Oxcarbazepine for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
oxcarbazepine Oxtellar, Trileptal

How It Works

Oxcarbazepine prevents seizures by calming the electrical activity in the brain. It works in a fashion similar to carbamazepine (for example, Tegretol), which for many years has been used to treat epilepsy.

Why It Is Used

Oxcarbazepine may be used to treat partial seizures in adults and children. In adults, it may be used by itself or combined with another antiepileptic medicine.

How Well It Works

Initial studies indicate that oxcarbazepine is effective in adults and children when it is added to other antiepileptic medicines.1

Also, when used alone, oxcarbazepine can help control partial and generalized seizures.2

Side Effects

The most common side effects of oxcarbazepine include:

  • Headache.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea or upset stomach.

In rare cases, oxcarbazepine may cause a serious skin rash. Contact your doctor if you develop a rash while taking oxcarbazepine.

Less commonly, oxcarbazepine may lower sodium levels in the blood or cause problems with double vision, speech, concentration, coordination, and walking.

People who have had a serious allergic reaction to carbamazepine are more likely to have an adverse reaction to oxcarbazepine too.

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide in adults and in children and teens.

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 may be 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. Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking. Oxcarbazepine may make birth control pills less effective. A woman taking oxcarbazepine may need to use a method of birth control other than birth control pills to reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.
  • 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, oxcarbazepine may cause side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. 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. Castillo S, et al. (2000). Oxcarbazepine add-on for drug-resistant partial epilepsy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
  2. Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 28, 2013

Last Revised: August 28, 2013

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