Valproic acid or valproate is a pharmaceutical used to treat convulsions, prevent seizures and as a mood stabilizer. It is commonly used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder and migraine headaches. One of its benefits is that it is a generic drug and a typical daily dose costs less than $1.00.
Valproic acid can be given either intravenously or by mouth, and has both quick-acting and long acting formulations, making it very useful for ongoing management of seizure disorders.
The drug does have severe side effects. Nausea is common, as are sleepiness and dry mouth. More serious but less common side effects include liver damage, so liver monitoring is usually recommended. The drug also causes an increased risk of suicide and pancreatitis. It is not recommended for children and adolescents as it can cause premature growth plate ossification, resulting in stunted growth. It must also be avoided in pregnant women, as it can cause birth defects. It also has many medicine interactions, including common ones like aspirin.
Valproic acid's method of action is not well understood. It was first synthesized in the 1880's, but its therapeutic effect was not discovered until the late 1950s.