Depakote (DEH-pah-kote) is a brand name used in the United States for a type of medicine called divalproex (di-VAL-pro-eks) sodium.
Depakote ER is a different form of the same medicine. The "ER" stands for "extended-release," which means that the time it takes the pills to dissolve and release the medicine is longer. Most people need to take regular Depakote two, three, or even four times a day because the pills release all their medicine within a few hours. It's hard to remember to take pills that often. Depakote ER is designed so that the pills can be taken only once a day. So it's a lot easier to remember and more convenient.
Another advantage of Depakote ER is that the amount of medicine in the blood stays more even than when regular Depakote is used. Having an even level of medicine in the blood may reduce side effects from very high levels and seizures from very low levels.
When you read about Depakote or Depakote ER, you will also see the word valproate (val-PRO-ate). This is the name of the medicine in Depakote ER after it has changed into the form that actually works in the body. A few other seizure medicines also are changed into valproate, so they work in the same way as Depakote and Depakote ER. The other valproate medicines in the United States are Depakene, Depacon (given by injection), and valproic acid.
Depakote ER became available in the United States in 2000. It is not available in Canada, the UK, or Australia. There is no generic (non–brand name) form of Depakote ER.
In the United States, Depakote ER is sold by Abbott Laboratories. The name or appearance may be different in various countries but usually the dose (measured in milligrams, abbreviated "mg") will be the same. These descriptions apply to the U.S. versions:
Depakote ER is available only in tablet form. There are two sizes:
White ovaloid tablets with Abbott logo and "HF".
Gray ovaloid tablets with Abbott logo and "HC".
How to take and store Depakote
Depakote ER tablets should be swallowed whole, not chewed or crushed. Most doctors recommend taking them with food to avoid an upset stomach, but they also can be taken without food. Because food affects the way medicine is used by the body, try to be consistent day in and day out. A person who usually takes Depakote with meals should do that all the time.
As the doctor increases the amount of Depakote ER, you may be given a different kind of pills than the ones you've been using. You may start out using 250-mg tablets and then switch to 500-mg tablets. If this happens, be careful to use the correct number. Don't automatically continue to use the same number of pills as before.
Store Depakote ER at room temperature and keep the pills away from light and dampness. Don't keep them in the bathroom if it's damp there. And of course keep them where children can't get at them.
What if I forget?
If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, delay that dose instead of taking two doses close together. Since Depakote ER is generally taken once every 24 hours, you should wait about 12 hours before taking the second dose. Then you can start a 24-hour schedule again the next day. If you're not sure about what to do, call the doctor's office for advice.
Do your best to follow the doctor's directions. If you forget to take a dose of Depakote ER, you'll be going an entire day without any seizure medicine. You might have more seizures.
If you often forget to take medicine on time, it may be a good idea to get a special pillbox or watch with an alarm to remind you. Taking the right amount of seizure medicine on time every single day is the most important step in preventing seizures!
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