Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed November 30, 2018
Depakote is an anticonvulsant drug and mood stabilizer used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, bipolar disorder (manic depression), and migraines. Depakote, also known as valproic acid, works by preventing the breakdown of the brain chemical GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA mainly acts as a calming agent in the brain, since its presence keeps the brain cells from firing signals too rapidly. If there's too little GABA in the brain, the brain cells can become overactive, causing brain activity to become overstimulated. This is why Depakote can be especially helpful in treating conditions marked by excessive brain activity such as epilepsy and the manic phase of bipolar disorder.
Although Depakote may be used to treat bipolar disorder, it does not act as an antidepressant. However, Depakote may be used in conjunction with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which help alleviate the symptoms of depression by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain which can elevate mood and brain function. In recent years, Depakote has been linked to certain serious side effects. Below, you'll find information about these side effects, FDA warnings, and lawsuits related to Depakote.
Common Depakote Side Effects
As with any drug, people taking Depakote may experience certain side effects. Some common, mild side effects that have been linked to Depakote include:
- Significant Weight Loss
Some people may experience more serious side effects from taking Depakote such as major liver damage or inflammation of the pancreas, both of which could be fatal. Other reported side effects include worsening depression or even developing suicidal thoughts. In addition, children whose mothers took Depakote while pregnant may have a heightened risk for certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects, spina bifida, or cognitive impairment.
FDA Depakote Warnings
In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned healthcare professionals and women that Depakote should not be used by pregnant women to prevent migraine headaches. The agency based this warning on a recent study that showed that children whose mothers took Depakote while pregnant may have decreased IQs. As a result of this study, the FDA required that stronger warnings about taking the drug during pregnancy be included on Depakote's packaging.
Before this study, the FDA had categorized Depakote as a "D class" drug for pregnant women, meaning that the potential benefit of the drug to women during pregnancy for treating migraines may be acceptable even though taking the drug poses certain risks. In light of this study, however, the FDA re-categorized Depakote as an "X class" drug, meaning the risk to pregnant woman and their children clearly outweighs any possible benefit of the drug. Finally, the FDA warned that pregnant women should only take Depakote for epilepsy or bipolar disorder if other drugs have proven ineffective.
Depakote Side Effect Lawsuits
During the first half of 2013, about three dozen lawsuits were filed against Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer of Depakote, by the minor children of women who took the drug while pregnant or by the families or guardians of those children. The plaintiffs who filed those lawsuits claimed that they suffered serious injuries, including spina bifida and heart defects, from being exposed to Depakote before birth.
Many of these Depakote birth defect lawsuits are based on the claim that Abbott Laboratories failed to warn doctors and patients about the risk of adverse side effects such as birth defects. Under product liability law manufacturers have a duty to warn users about any risks or dangers their products may carry. Failing to do so, can open companies up to liability. If the lawsuits are successful, plaintiffs could be awarded financial compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Get Legal Help Your Depakote Claim
If you've taken Depakote and think your child may have suffered birth injuries or defects as a result, you may have a claim for damages. Acting sooner rather than later will help protect your legal rights and allow you to put the focus back on your health, and that of your family. Get started today by contacting an experienced product liability attorney near you.
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