Epilepsy is a brain disorder that occurs when there are recurring, brief changes in how the brain's electrical system works. These changes in brain activity can lead to a seizure (see Epilepsy Symptoms).
Divalproex works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a natural brain chemical that stops or slows down other brain signals. Increasing GABA helps prevent the abnormal brain signals that lead to a seizure. It is also thought that divalproex may prevent seizures by affecting sodium channels in the brain.
Divalproex tablets are "delayed-release," which means they have a special coating that prevents the drug from dissolving too early in the digestive tract, which can be irritating. The beads inside the sprinkle capsules also have this special coating. It is similar to an older medication, Depakene® (valproic acid). Divalproex is changed into valproic acid in the digestive tract. This (along with the special coating) helps reduce some of the side effects, compared to the older product (Depakene).
Several studies have evaluated the safety and effectiveness of divalproex in the treatment of certain conditions.
In one study, divalproex was compared to lithium (Lithobid®, Eskalith®) or a "sugar pill" (placebo) to treat people who were hospitalized with an episode of mania. After three weeks, those taking divalproex had at least as much improvement in bipolar symptoms as those taking lithium (and more improvement compared to those taking a "sugar pill").
Another study looked at using divalproex for migraine prevention. Those not taking the medication experienced an average of almost six migraines in four weeks, while people taking it had only three to four migraines, on average.