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Tiagabine for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
tiagabine Gabitril

How It Works

Tiagabine increases the brain levels of a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which may prevent abnormal electrical activity in brain cells.

Why It Is Used

Tiagabine is used in combination with other antiepileptic medicines in adults and children older than 12 years to control partial seizures.

How Well It Works

When added to treatment with another antiepileptic drug, tiagabine is sometimes effective in reducing partial seizures in children older than 12 years. It seems to work better in controlling partial seizures in adults, either alone or when used with another antiepileptic medicine. It is not helpful in reducing other types of seizures, such as primary generalized seizures or seizures in children who have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.1

Side Effects

Common side effects of tiagabine include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Tremor.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take antiepileptic medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take antiepileptic medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Other concerns. For some people, tiagabine may cause side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Jarrar RG, Buchhalter JR (2003). Therapeutics in pediatric epilepsy, part 1: The new antiepileptic drugs and the ketogenic diet. Mayo Clinical Procedures, 78(3): 359–370.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 26, 2011

Last Revised: August 26, 2011

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