Sodium valproate (also known as Epilim®)

Key points about Epilim

  • Epilim is used to treat epilepsy, control some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and prevent migraine headaches.
  • 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 an unplanned pregnancy.
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Epilim is not suitable for people who could become pregnant, or father a child. However, in some cases it may be the only treatment option available, for example for epilepsy where other treatments have not worked. 

If you do need to continue Epilim then you must be use reliable contraception, even if you are not currently sexually active. Your doctor or nurse can advise you about reliable contraception. 

Note: All anti-seizure medicines in pregnancy have the potential to harm an unborn child but the risks are higher with some medicines, including Epilim, especially early in your pregnancy and at higher doses. If you have epilepsy, having seizures while you are pregnant can also harm your unborn child so it is important to keep taking your anti-seizure medication.

If you are planning a pregnancy

When you are taking Epilim it is extremely important to plan ahead if you want to become pregnant. You need to see your doctor 6 to 12 months before you would like to become pregnant so that you can reduce any risks to your baby.

If you are able to father children, speak with your doctor about the potential risks of taking Epilim during conception, and your options if you wish to start a family.

You and your doctor 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 your doctor first.

If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant

Keep taking your medicine at the right dose, and contact your doctor, tell them you think you are pregnant and get an urgent appointment to see them.

Read more about medicines for epilepsy, mental health and pain can harm your unborn baby(external link) and sodium valproate (Epilim) use in people who can father children(external link).

Epilim has many uses: treating epilepsy by preventing seizures, controlling some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and preventing migraine headaches. Epilim works by blocking certain kinds of nerve activity. In New Zealand, Epilim is available as:

  • Epilim liquid 200 mg in 5 mL
  • Epilim 100 mg tablets (white tablets)
  • Epilim EC 200 mg or 500 mg tablets (lilac tablets). 

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.

  • 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.
  • It is usually taken 2 or 3 times a day.

Epilim is available as a liquid or as tablets

Epilim is best taken with food. Take your doses at the same times each day, to help you to remember to take it.

Formulation How to take it

Epilim liquid

Epilim tablets

(white tablets)

  • You can swallow these tablets with a glass of water, juice or milk, or you can crush them to make it 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 and are designed to prevent the medicine from upsetting the stomach.
  • Do not 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, juice or milk.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking Epilim regularly every day (see tips to help you remember to take your medicines regularly). It may take a few weeks before you experience the full benefits of Epilim. Do not stop taking Epilim suddenly as this can cause problems; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.
  • Epilim may interact  with some other medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting Epilim or before starting any new medicines. Do not take indigestion medication (antacids) within 2 hours of taking Epilim.

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 troublesome.
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in menstruation (periods)
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Changes in mood, personality or behaviour
  • Tell your doctor.
  • Shaky hands or unsteady on your feet
  • Tell your doctor as your dose may need to be adjusted.
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset
  • Try taking Epilim with food
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome - you may need to change to the EC tablet.
  • Easy bruising, feeling tired, looking pale, getting sick often
  • Tell to your doctor as you may need a blood test.
  • Signs of an allergic reactions such as skin rash, itches, hives, swelling of the face, lips and mouth, problems breathing 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of problems with your liver such as severe tummy pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine 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
For women: Medicines for epilepsy, mental health and pain can harm your unborn baby(external link) ACC, New Zealand

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, NZ. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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