For the millions of people in the US who suffer from epilepsy, bipolar disorder or migraine headache, it is the prescription drug Depakote which gives them great relief from their debilitating condition. Depakote, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983, is actually the brand name of Valproate (VPA), a type of medication used in treating epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and in preventing migraine headaches.

The FDA approval in 1983 was for treatment of epilepsy, specifically, to reduce or prevent severe epileptic seizures. In 1995, Depakote was approved by the FDA for yet another use: as treatment for manic episodes linked to bipolar disorder. Finally, in 1996, Depakote was approved to lessen the recurrence of severe, painful headaches which were caused by migraine.

Considered as a medical breakthrough, this mood stabilizer is able to increase the amount of gamma amminobutyric acid (GABA) in a patient’s brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter (chemical substance) that transports messages between brain cells; it also soothes overstimulated nerves, preventing brain signals which lead to seizures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than two million people in the U.S. suffering from epilepsy; about 125,000 more are added to their number every year. Those affected by migraine, on the other hand, are at least, 20 million.These numbers plus the effectiveness of Depakote eventually made this drug from Abbott Laboratories one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S.

Results from the use of Depakote, however, were not just good news as there were also reports of a large number of side-effects which, according to the website of Williams Kherkher, could either cause lasting health problems or death of patient. Due to these serious negative effects, the FDA was prompted to issue several advisories and warnings on the drug, as well as classify it as a class D drug.

Those who took Depakote reported of side-effects that included: tiredness, slow mental processes, nausea, tremors, weight gain, hair loss, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, pancreatitis and liver damage. In women, Depakote increased the risk of developing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition which causes ovarian cysts and which affects their ability to get pregnant. If taken by a pregnant woman, however, then use of Depakote can result to severe birth defects, like: spina bifida and other neural tube defects besides spinal cord or brain damage; malformed limbs, brain or skull; deformed facial structures, also knows as facial dysmorphism; polydactyl, which is characterized by the growth of extra fingers or toes; facial malformation or cleft palate; autism and lower intelligence; and, different types of heart defects, such as atrial septal.

It is important that people who have been affected negatively by Depakote know that they have a right to pusue legal action against this drug’s manufacturer and probably even recover financial compensation for all the damages/harm they have been made to suffer.