Oxcarbazepine (ox-car-BAZ-eh-peen) is the generic name (non–brand name) of a widely used seizure medicine. The common brand name for this type of medicine is Trileptal (try-LEP-tal). An extended release version of the drug is sold under the Brand name of Oxtellar XR with the primary difference being that the drug can be taken as a single daily dose. Oxcarbazepine is available in many countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and the countries of the European Union.
Although oxcarbazepine has been used in the United States since 2000, it has been used in other countries since 1990 and has been studied in thousands of patients around the world.
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.
While unlikely, it is not yet known if people who switch from brand-name Trileptal to generic oxcarbazepine risk having more seizures or side effects during the changeover due to differences in the way the body absorbs the different types medicines. Likewise, it is not known if switching from one company's generic oxcarbazepine to another company's or switching from generic oxcarbazepine to Trileptal may have similar risks.
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.
150 mg: yellow modified-oval shaped with “150” printed on one side
300 mg: brown modified-oval shaped with “300” printed on one side
600 mg: brownish red modified-oval shaped with “600” printed on one side
Trileptal is marketed in the United States by Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The name or appearance may differ in various countries, but the dose (measured in milligrams, abbreviated "mg") will usually be the same. These descriptions apply to the U.S. Versions:
150-mg (pale gray-green, scored)
300-mg (yellow, scored)
600-mg (light pink, scored)
300 mg/5 mL suspension: off-white to slightly brown or slightly red liquid.
The appearance, formulations and dosages of oxcarbazepine may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Check with your pharmacist to be sure you are taking the correct amount. Trileptal is available in generic (non-brand name) form in the United States and some other countries, which is called oxcarbazepine.
Follow your doctor's directions. Call if you have any questions. Usually, your doctor will tell you to start by taking one tablet – either 150 or 300 milligrams – two times each day. After a while, the doctor may gradually increase the dosage to get better control of your seizures. Because oxcarbazepine is generally taken twice a day, many people help themselves to remember by taking it with breakfast and dinner. It's OK to take it either with food or without food. Ask the doctor what to do if you forget to take a dose.
Be careful if the doctor writes a new prescription using a different kind of pill. For example, if you've been using 150-mg tablets and the new prescription is for 300-mg tablets, be careful to use the correct number. Don't automatically continue to use the same number of pills as before. Make sure you know what size tablet has been prescribed.
Oxcarbazepine should be stored at room temperature, away from light and humidity. (Don't keep the pills in the bathroom if it's damp there.) Of course, keep all oxcarbazepine out of the reach of children.
Don't take more than the doctor prescribes. If you think you've taken one or two extra tablets, call your doctor for advice. For a larger overdose, call your local poison control center or emergency room right away, unless you have special directions from the doctor.
Don't stop taking oxcarbazepine or change the amount you take without talking to your doctor first. Stopping any seizure medicine all at once can cause serious problems.
If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, delay that dose for a few hours instead of taking two doses very close together. Then go back to the regular schedule. . If you're not sure about what to do, call the doctor's office for more advice.
Do your best to follow the doctor's directions. If you forget doses often, 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!
Brain cells need to work (fire) at a certain rate to function normally. During a seizure, brain cells are forced to work much more rapidly than normal. Oxcarbazepine helps prevent brain cells from working as fast as a seizure requires them to. In this way, seizures can be stopped when they are just beginning.
After medicine is swallowed, it must be absorbed into the blood so it can move throughout the body. The process of absorbing, digesting, and excreting a medicine or food is called metabolism. The way the body metabolizes a particular medicine affects how often it must be taken. It also determines whether it will interact with other medicines or be affected by liver disease or kidney disease.
Oxcarbazepine is metabolized by the liver but it doesn't change the way the liver metabolizes other seizure medicines, except for phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek).
The body eliminates oxcarbazepine through the kidneys. People with poor kidney function usually need to take less oxcarbazepine and they may take it less often, because it stays in their body longer.
Doctors have studied large numbers of patients with partial seizures to find out how well oxcarbazepine works. In studies where patients took either oxcarbazepine by itself, or phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek), valproate (Depakote), or carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol) alone, oxcarbazepine controlled seizures as well as the other medications.
Other studies have shown that oxcarbazepine works well when added to other seizure medications. Oxcarbazepine is not a perfect add-on seizure medicine for everyone, however. Sometimes people must try a series of combinations before finding what is best for them. But because oxcarbazepine doesn't interact much with other medicines, it can be used as an add-on without the need for complicated changes in dosage. The one exception is that adding oxcarbazepine to phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek) can cause the amount of phenytoin in the blood to rise.
Oxcarbazepine has now been in use since 1990, and it appears to be very safe. In the earliest tests, people who took it as their only medication or as an add-on to another seizure medicine were only slightly more likely to quit because of side effects than people who took a placebo (a pill with no active medicine) instead.
Some side effects of oxcarbazepine that have been reported include:
If you notice any of these problems, call the doctor's office. Sometimes the doctor can help by changing the amount of oxcarbazepine you take or how you take it. Don't stop taking oxcarbazepine or change the amount you take without the doctor's guidance.
If you have just started taking oxcarbazepine (or have just started taking a larger amount), be careful doing anything that might be dangerous until you know whether you are feeling sleepy, dizzy, or uncoordinated. You should also be very cautious about drinking alcohol, because with oxcarbazepine the effects of alcohol on the brain (such as tiredness, slurred speech, or unsteadiness) may be increased.
A small percentage of people taking oxcarbazepine develop a rash within the first few weeks of taking it. If this happens, tell the doctor or nurse right away, to be sure that it's not the beginning of a serious problem. It's rare for the rash to be serious, but don't ignore it. It's often necessary to switch to a different seizure medicine.
Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to Tegretol or Carbatrol (carbamazepine), other seizure medicines that are chemically related to oxcarbazepine. About 25% to 30% of patients who have had allergic reactions to carbamazepine will have the same type of reaction to oxcarbazepine.
Long-term side effects
In some patients, especially those taking higher doses of oxcarbazepine, the level of sodium (salt) in the blood may become low (a condition called hyponatremia). Usually this is not serious, but occasionally it may increase the number of seizures that you have or cause other problems such as tiredness or dizziness. Your doctor may want to check the amount of sodium in your blood to see if this is happening to you, especially if you are having nausea, a vaguely "unwell" feeling, headache, listlessness, or confusion.
Very few people have serious reactions to oxcarbazepine. If you take it, you should be aware of them, however, so you and your family can recognize them.
Here's a list of warning signs that may possibly be the start of a serious problem. If you notice any of these things, call your doctor right away:
Severe Skin Reactions
As of April 19, 2005 the FDA and Novartis pharmaceuticals (the manufacturer of the brand name version of oxcarbazepine called Trileptal) issued a new warning regarding oxcarbazepine. Serious dermatological reactions, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), have been reported in both children and adults in association with oxcarbazepine use. SJS and TEN may start with fever and flu-like symptoms. Then, a rash develops, with or without ulcers of the mucous membranes, that quickly progresses to blisters that burn and are painful.
The most common time of onset after first dosage of oxcarbazepine was 19 days. Such serious skin reactions may be life-threatening, and some patients have required hospitalization with very rare reports of fatal outcome. Therefore, if you have any skin reactions upon taking oxcarbazepine, you should seek immediate medical attention.
If you have a low level of sodium (salt) in your blood, a condition called hyponatremia, you may have symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting, increased seizures, headaches, sluggishness, or confusion.
On July 10, 2008, an advisory panel was convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review data that the FDA had previously collected from drug studies showing an association between many of the antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and suicidal ideation and behavior, which together are called suicidality. According to the FDA's Alert, among the patients with epilepsy in these drug studies, 1 out of 1000 people taking the placebo (inactive substance) showed suicidality compared to approximately 3.5 out of 1000 people who took an AED. The FDA advisory panel voted to accept the FDA's data at its meeting on July 10. The FDA has provided the following information for patients, family members, and caregivers at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm100192.htm.
We again urge patients and families to contact their doctor before stopping an epilepsy medication because this may possibly lead to seizures and worsening of mood.
This is a serious rare drug reaction that has been seen with oxcarbazepine.
Skin reactions with HLA-B*1502 allele (An allele is a form of a gene that is found on a chromosome. Alleles are involved in deciding whether certain traits passed on from a parent to a child will occur. The tendency to severe drug reactions can be one of these traits.)
Often doctors find that medicines are useful for more than one purpose. It is legal to prescribe medicines for "off-label uses" even though the FDA has not formally approved such use.
Like Tegretol or Carbatrol, oxcarbazepine also can be used to treat a type of facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) and to stabilize mood in patients with the mental illness called bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder. Neither use is approved by the FDA.
People should not take oxcarbazepine if they are allergic to it or any of its inactive ingredients.
People who may be at risk for the HLA-B*1502 allele should be tested for this allele before starting oxcarbazepine. This allele occurs more frequently in certain groups of people, for example Han Chinese population, the Philippines, some Malaysian groups, Korea and India.
People who test positive for HLA-B*1502 allele should avoid using Trileptal unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
If you have absence or myoclonic seizures, oxcarbazepine probably will not be helpful.
People with kidney disorders need to be extra careful. Oxcarbazepine may build up to a level that's too high unless they take lower doses under their doctor’s direction.
Sometimes one kind of medicine changes the way another kind of medicine works in the body. If two kinds of medicine affect each other, the doctor may prescribe something else or change the amount to be taken.
Oxcarbazepine has very few problems of this kind. The way oxcarbazepine works is not affected by other medicines and oxcarbazepine does not affect most other medicines. (See below for some exceptions.) This means that oxcarbazepine can be taken with most other medicines without difficulty.
One exception is that oxcarbazepine can make oral contraceptives and Depo-Provera less effective. To prevent pregnancy, you may need to use a different type of birth control or raise the dosage of the contraceptive. Talk to your doctor about this problem. Oxcarbazepine does not affect barrier types of birth control, like condoms, IUDs, and diaphragms.
Oxcarbazepine can cause the level of the seizure medicines Dilantin or Phenytek (phenytoin) to go higher, so adjustments may be necessary if these medicines are used together.
In children, oxcarbazepine has been used primarily to treat partial seizures, ones that begin in a limited area of the brain.
Doctors figure out how much medicine to give to young children based mostly on their weight. To keep side effects at a minimum, the doctor probably will prescribe a low dose to start with and increase it slowly. Children usually start with a dose of 8 to 10 milligrams (mg) for each kilogram (kg, about 2.2 pounds) of their body weight per day in two divided doses.
After a gradual increase every two weeks or so, most children do best taking about 10 to 50 mg per kg per day, split into two doses, Adjusted for weight, this is a little higher than the adult dose because children's bodies eliminate oxcarbazepine more quickly.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns each medication to a Pregnancy Category according to whether it has been proven to be harmful in pregnancy. Oxcarbazepine is listed in Pregnancy Category C. This indicates that caution is advised, but the benefits of the medicine may outweigh the potential risks. Studies in animals have shown some harm to the baby, but there haven't been any good studies of results in women.
Talk to your doctor or another health professional if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. We don't yet have enough information to be able to estimate the risk of various types of birth defects that might occur if oxcarbazepine is taken during pregnancy. We also don't know enough to compare the risk with oxcarbazepine to the risk with other seizure medicines.
All women who are capable of becoming pregnant should take at least 0.4 mg (400 mcg) of the vitamin called folic acid every day because it helps to prevent one type of birth defect. (The most well-known of these is spina bifida, in which the spinal cord is not completely enclosed.) Women at high risk, such as those with a history of this kind of defect in a previous pregnancy, should take 4000 mcg (4 mg) daily, beginning before they become pregnant. In general, the risk of defects is higher for women who take more than one type of seizure medicine and for women with a family history of birth defects.
How much oxcarbazepine is passed through breast milk is not known for certain, but the way the body uses it suggests that probably a large portion does enter the milk. If you want to breastfeed your baby, check with your doctor about what seizure medicine would be best for you.
Oxcarbazepine is commonly prescribed for people over 65, but it's important for the doctor to be careful about how much oxcarbazepine these people take. When people are older than 65 or 70, their kidneys usually don't work as well as before. The kidneys are responsible for removing oxcarbazepine from the body, so it stays in the body longer.
Seniors need to start with a very low dose of oxcarbazepine at the beginning and then increase the amount more slowly than a younger person would.
Seniors also may be more sensitive to the side effects of oxcarbazepine. Some of the common side effects, like dizziness, drowsiness, or problems with coordination, may worsen problems they had before taking oxcarbazepine. Seniors also are at greater risk of injury from falls or other accidents resulting from these problems.
The best amount is the amount that completely controls seizures without causing troublesome side effects. It depends on many factors, which are different for every individual. Follow the doctor's directions. Call if you have any questions.
No one should stop taking oxcarbazepine or change the amount they take without talking to the doctor first. Stopping any seizure medicine all at once can cause a problem that may be life-threatening.
Don’t use more than the doctor prescribes. If a little extra (such as an extra tablet or two) is taken by accident, call the doctor for advice. For a larger overdose, call a poison control center or emergency room right away unless you have other specific directions from your doctor.
Adults usually are told to start by taking 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) per day, divided into two doses. After about a week, the doctor probably will suggest taking a higher dose. The recommended dosage for most adults is 600 to 1,200 mg per day when oxcarbazepine is used alone. Higher dosages may be necessary when it used in combination with other seizure medicines.
Patients with poor kidney function generally should take only half as much. This also applies to many seniors, too.
Those who have been taking another seizure medicine may be told to continue to take it in the same way as before, or the amount of the other medicine may gradually be reduced over several weeks to months. If the plan is to continue taking another medicine along with oxcarbazepine, blood tests may be needed to check the level of the other medication. Oxcarbazepine sometimes causes it to change.
The dose for children is calculated based on the child's body weight. Usually the doctor will prescribe 8 to 10 mg per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight to start, divided into two doses per day. This dose will be increased over a period of about 2 weeks. Because of the way their bodies process the medication, children who are 8 or younger may need a higher dose than older children.
In the United States, companies that manufacture medicines are required to publish certain kinds of information about each product. This document is commonly known as a “package insert” because it is usually included with each package of the medicine.
You can also read these documents (also called "prescribing information") online. The U.S. package insert for Trileptal (oxcarbazepine) is found at:
Some of the information may differ in other countries.
To learn how to read and understand a package insert, see How to read a package insert.