Phenobarbital for Epilepsy
What To Think About
It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.
- Adverse effects. Phenobarbital's effect on your thinking and state of mind is a serious drawback to using the drug. Teenagers and adults taking the drug may feel depressed or irritable. It can cause memory loss and decrease your ability to learn. Children and older adults may feel restless and have trouble sleeping. Primidone is usually less effective and has more side effects than phenobarbital (including depression and impotence).
- Drug interactions. Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you may be taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well, or it may affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking. Phenobarbital may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.
- Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
- Ease of use. Phenobarbital only has to be taken once a day, making it a good choice if you have a busy schedule or have trouble remembering to take your medicine. Because phenobarbital works very slowly, it may take weeks before phenobarbital levels reach the proper level. But missing a dose of phenobarbital now and then usually does not affect the drug levels in your bloodstream. This is not true of other antiepileptic drugs.
- Other concerns. For some people, phenobarbital may cause side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: August 26, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology