Felbamate is a medication prescribed to treat severe seizures. It is typically only used when other medications fail to manage symptoms of epilepsy, due to the risk of serious side effects. This drug is an anticonvulsant that works by normalizing activity within the brain. While it can help manage symptoms, it cannot cure epilepsy. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe other anti-epileptic drugs to be taken along with felbamate.
Before prescribing felbamate, the doctor will order blood tests to ensure patient safety. Blood tests will also need to be used periodically throughout the treatment to check for signs of a possible complication, called aplastic anemia. This anticonvulsant is taken orally, or by mouth, three to four times daily. Milk or food may be taken with each dose to minimize stomach upset. Adults will be prescribed no more than a total of 3600 milligrams (mg) daily.
Some side effects may occur with the use of felbamate, which patients should report to the physician if they become severe or persistent. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur. Patients may also experience insomnia, drowsiness, or dizziness. Loss of appetite has also been reported, along with heartburn, headaches, and nervousness.
Aplastic anemia may develop rarely in patients who use felbamate. This condition, in which the body does not manufacture sufficient quantities of blood cells, can increase the risk of infections. Patients should get medical help if they experience symptoms of aplastic anemia, which can include severe fatigue, unusual bleeding or bruising, and signs of infection, such as a fever and chills. Another possible complication from the use of this drug is liver damage, which may be evident with jaundice, nausea, and flu-like symptoms. Liver damage can also result in pain in the upper, right-hand abdominal area and loss of appetite.
Other rare, but serious side effects that felbamate may cause include double vision, other vision changes, and ear pain. An irregular or rapid heartbeat, problems breathing, and swelling of the facial area may also occur. In some studies, patient taking felbamate who are under the age of 24 have rarely developed suicidal tendencies. Patients should get help if they experience aggression, unusual mood changes, or thoughts of suicide.
Before taking felbamate, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. It should not be used while breastfeeding or during pregnancy unless there is a significant risk to the mother if her condition is left untreated. Those who have kidney disease or liver disease may be unable to use this treatment for seizures. It may interact with other drugs, including birth control pills, phenytoin, and phenobarbital.