Also known as sodium valproate

Key points about Epilim

  • Epilim is used to treat epilepsy by preventing seizures and is also used to control some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.
  • Epilim is also called sodium valproate.
  • Epilim can seriously harm your unborn baby. People of all genders who are taking Epilim and are sexually active need to use effective contraception to prevent pregnancy.
mother and young son receiving medicine from the pharmacy
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Epilim is not suitable for people who could become pregnant, or who could father a child. However, in some cases it may be the only option available if other medicines haven't worked for you.

If it's possible for you to become pregnant, before you start taking Epilim you will need to have a pregnancy test to check that you aren’t pregnant.

Once you start taking Epilim you must use reliable contraception every time you have sex, even if it's only occasionally. Your healthcare provider can advise you about reliable contraception options.

When you stop Epilim, it is still important to continue using contraception until at least three months after stopping. 

If you are planning a pregnancy

If you or your partner would like to become pregnant, or plan a family, contact your doctor 6 to 12 months ahead of time so you can make a plan and discuss the best options for you.

Note: All anti-seizure medicines have the potential to harm an unborn child, but the risks are higher with Epilim than some other medicines, especially early in your pregnancy and if you're taking higher doses.

If you have epilepsy, having seizures while you're pregnant can also harm your unborn child so it's important to keep taking anti-seizure medication.

If you're taking Epilim to control bipolar disorder, it's also important to keep taking it. Talk to your doctor about your options if you or your partner becomes pregnant.

Fathering children

If you can father children, talk to your healthcare provider about the potential risks to a child while you're taking Epilim and for 3 months after you've stopped taking it. It's important to ask about options and plan ahead if you wish to start a family.

You must not donate sperm while you are taking Epilim and for 3 months after stopping.

You and your healthcare provider need to agree on a plan about how to manage your medicines and your dose. Don’t stop taking your medicine suddenly without talking to them first.

If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant

Keep taking your medicine at the right dose, and contact your healthcare provider straight away, tell them you think you're pregnant and make an urgent appointment to see them.

For more detailed information, see:

Epilim is used to treat epilepsy by preventing seizures and it is also used to control some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.

It belongs to a group of medicines called anti-seizure or anticonvulsant medicines. Epilim works by blocking certain kinds of nerve activity in the brain.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Epilim is available as:

    • Epilim liquid 200 mg in 5 mL
    • Epilim 100 mg tablets (white coloured tablets)
    • Epilim EC (enteric-coated) tablets in 2 strengths, 200 mg or 500 mg tablets (lilac coloured tablets). 
  • The dose of Epilim will be different for different people.
  • Your doctor will start you on a low dose and increase your dose slowly over a few weeks.
  • Epilim is usually taken 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Always take your Epilim exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

  • Food: Epilim is best taken with food. 
  • Timing: Take your doses at the same times each day, to help you to remember to take it.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the usual time. Don't take double the dose.

The table below provides information about how to take the different forms of Epilim.

Available as How to take it

Epilim liquid

  • Shake the bottle well and measure the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon. You can buy these from your pharmacy.
  • Don't use a kitchen spoon as it won't give you the right amount. Read more about how to give medicines to babies and children.  

Epilim tablets

(white tablets)

  • You can swallow these tablets with a glass of water or you can crush them to make them easier to swallow.
  • Crush the tablets and mix with a small amount of soft food such as yoghurt or a small drink. Swallow the food or drink straight away. 

Epilim EC tablets

(lilac tablets)

  • These are called enteric-coated (EC) tablets. The coating prevents the medicine from upsetting your stomach.
  • Don't crush or chew them, as this will destroy the coating and be more likely to cause side effects.
  • Take these tablets with a glass of water.


Here are some things to know when you're taking Epilim. Other things may be important as well, so ask your healthcare provider what you should know about.

  • Keep taking Epilim regularly every day: It may take a few weeks before you experience the full benefits of Epilim. See tips to help you remember to take your medicines regularly.
  • Don't stop taking Epilim suddenly: Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping.
  • Other medicines: Epilim interacts with several medicines (including those you can buy over-the-counter, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori) so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting Epilim, or before starting any new medicines.
  • Indigestion medicines: If you're taking the enteric coated (EC) tablets, don't take indigestion medication (antacids) or iron supplements within 2 hours of taking Epilim.
  • Alcohol: Epilim can make you feel drowsy, dizzy or light-headed. Drinking alcohol can increase this drowsiness so it's best to limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Driving: Epilim can make you feel drowsy, dizzy or light-headed. Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Blood tests: You'll need to have regular blood tests to check for side effects. Blood tests are very important, especially during the first year of starting Epilim.
  • Surgery: Epilim may make you bleed or bruise more than other people. It's important to let healthcare providers who may be performing any surgical procedures on you know that you are taking Epilim –this includes your dentist. 
  • Pregnant: Contact your doctor immediately if you or your partner becomes pregnant. Keep taking your medicine at the right dose, and contact your healthcare provider, tell them you think you are pregnant and make an urgent appointment to see them.
  • Planning a pregnancy: If you're planning a pregnancy it's extremely important to plan ahead. You need to see your healthcare provider 6 to 12 months before you would like to become pregnant so you can reduce any risks to your baby.
  • Depression or thoughts of self-harm: If you feel low or depressed while taking Epilim, or you're having thoughts of harming yourself or others, see your doctor straight away.
  • Weight gain: If you have noticed your weight increase while you're taking Epilim, and this is bothering you, ask your doctor for advice.

Like all medicines, Epilim can cause side effects; often side effects improve with time as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired
  • Feeling dizzy, or faint
  • This is common when starting Epilim.
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Tell your doctor if these bother you.
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Pain when menstruating (periods)
  • These are common.
  • Hair loss is usually temporary.
  • Try to eat a well-balanced diet and take regular exercise.
  • Tell your doctor if they bother you.
  • Changes in mood, personality or behaviour
  • This is common.
  • Tell your doctor.
  • If you have any thoughts of harming yourself tell your doctor immediately or ring 1737.
  • Shaky hands or unsteady on your feet
  • This is common.
  • Tell your doctor as your dose may need to be adjusted.
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset
  • These are very common when starting Epilim.
  • Try taking Epilim with food.
  • Tell your doctor if it bother you - you may need to change to the EC tablet.
  • Signs of changes in blood cells, eg, bruising easily, feeling tired, looking pale, getting sick often
  • This is serious and can be common, especially in older adults or when taking higher doses.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of an allergic reactions, eg skin rash, itches, hives, swelling of the face, lips and mouth, problems breathing 
  • This is rare but serious.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of problems with your liver, eg, severe tummy pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine.
  • This is common.
  • Your doctor will check for these through blood tests.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
Did you know that you can report a medicine side effect to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)

Epilim(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet
For adults: sodium valproate(external link) New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
For children: sodium valproate(external link) New Zealand Formulary for Children
Medicines for epilepsy, mental health and pain can harm your unborn baby(external link) ACC, New Zealand, 2020


Valproate Patient Guide – Contraception and pregnancy when taking valproate – what you should know(external link) Sanofi, 2020
Valproate guide for men of reproductive potential [PDF, 210 KB] Sanofi, 2023
Sodium valproate for preventing seizures - Medicines for Children(external link) NZ Formulary for Children, 2013
5 questions to ask about your medications(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)


  1. Sodium valproate(external link) New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
  2. Sodium valproate(external link) New Zealand Formulary for Children(external link)
  3. Balancing the benefits and risks of prescribing antiepileptic medicines in women(external link), BPAC, NZ, 2018
  4. Benefits & risks of taking anti-seizure medicines for epilepsy, mental health or pain(external link) Accident Compensation Corporation, NZ, 2020
  5. Sodium valproate (Epilim) use in people who can father children – important new safety information(external link) Medsafe, NZ, 2023
  6. Valproate guide for healthcare professionals who manage girls, women of childbearing potential and men treated with valproate(external link) Sanofi, May 2023.
  7. Individuals of reproductive potential and pregnancy(external link) NZ Formulary, 2023

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

Last reviewed: