Carbamazepine (CAR-buh-MAZ-uh-peen) is the generic name (non-brand name) of a widely used type of seizure medicine. Common brand names for carbamazepine include Tegretol and Carbatrol.
Various companies make and sell carbamazepine under different names, including Epitol and Atretol. It is generally available in three forms:
Products from different companies may look different. They all contain the same kind of medicine, but check with your doctor or the pharmacist if you get pills that look different from the ones you have been taking. You need to be careful because pills from a different company may not work the same way in your body.
Using generic medicines rather than brand-name ones is often suggested as a way to save money. Sometimes the savings are large, but with other medicines the price differences are pretty small. Investigate and shop around before deciding whether the savings are worth any possible problems.
People who switch from brand-name Tegretol, for instance, to generic carbamazepine possibly risk having more seizures or side effects during the changeover, because the body does not absorb the different types in the same way. Switching from one company's generic carbamazepine to another company's may have similar risks. So can switching from generic carbamazepine to Tegretol.
All these risks are not fully known. For some people the effects of changing from one type to another are very small. Some use generic carbamazepine successfully by always using the same company's product. Then the dosage can be adjusted to achieve the best results.
What's important is that you and the doctor should know what you're getting from the pharmacy and be able to control what type of seizure medicine you get.
How to take and store carbamazepine
Follow the doctor's directions. Call if you have any questions. Ask the doctor what to do if you forget a dose. The way the medicine is taken depends, of course, on what form the doctor has prescribed.
Most doctors recommend taking carbamazepine with food to avoid an upset stomach. Because food affects the way medicine is used by the body, try to be consistent day after day. A person who usually takes it with meals should do that all the time.
To use the liquid suspension, shake the bottle just before pouring it into a measuring spoon or filling a dropper. Use the same standard-size medicine spoon or dropper each time to get an accurate dose. Do not mix this form of carbamazepine with any other liquid or take it at the same time as another liquid medicine.
Don't drink grapefruit juice with carbamazepine, because it can interfere with the body's use of the medication.
As the doctor increases the amount of carbamazepine that you take, you may be given a different kind of tablet than the ones you've been taking. For example, you may start out using 100-mg tablets and then switch to 200-mg tablets. If this happens, be careful to use the correct number. Don't automatically continue to take the same number of tablets as before.
Store all types of carbamazepine at room temperature (below 86°F, 30°C). Protect the tablets from moisture. Don't keep them in the bathroom, where it's damp. Keep the bottle of the liquid in a cupboard where it won't get too much light.
What if I forget?
Take a forgotten dose as soon as you remember. If it almost time for the next dose, it may be a good idea to delay that dose for a few hours so you're not taking two doses very close together. If you're not sure what to do, call the doctor's office for more advice.
Do your best to follow the doctor's directions. The more often a medicine must be taken, the greater the chance of forgetting, and some people need to take carbamazepine four times every day. This can be difficult. If you forget doses often, it may be a good idea to get a special pillbox or watch with an alarm to remind you. Or ask the doctor whether you can switch to another form of carbamazepine that you can take less often.
Taking the right amount of seizure medicine on time every single day is the most important step in preventing seizures!
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