How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
Levetiracetam belongs to the class of medications called antiepileptics. It is used in combination with other seizure-control medications to treat and prevent seizures associated with epilepsy. Levetiracetam does not cure epilepsy and only works to control seizures as long as the medication is taken. Levetiracetam works by affecting the transmission of nerve signals in the brain.
This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Each blue, oblong, film-coated tablet, debossed with "ucb" and "250" on one side, contains 250 mg of levetiracetam. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal anhydrous silica, FD&C Blue No. 2 (indigo carmine Aluminum Lake), magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol 3350, polyethylene glycol 6000, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium croscarmellose, talc, and titanium dioxide.
Each yellow, oblong, film-coated tablet, debossed with "ucb" and "500" on one side, contains 500 mg of levetiracetam. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal anhydrous silica, iron oxide yellow, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol 3350, polyethylene glycol 6000, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium croscarmellose, talc, and titanium dioxide.
Each orange, oblong, film-coated tablet, debossed with "ucb" and "750" on one side, contains 750 mg of levetiracetam. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal anhydrous silica, FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow FCF Aluminum Lake) and iron oxide red, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol 3350, polyethylene glycol 6000, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium croscarmellose, talc, and titanium dioxide.
How should I use this medication?
The usual recommended starting dose of levetiracetam for an adult is 500 mg taken 2 times daily, with or without food according to your doctor's instructions. This dose may be increased to a maximum of 3,000 mg per day, according to need and as prescribed by your doctor. People with poor kidney function may need a lower dose.
The dose for children is based on body weight and will be calculated by your child's doctor.
Use an oral syringe to measure each dose of the liquid, as it gives a more accurate measurement than household teaspoons.
Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light, and keep it out of the reach of children. Any liquid medication remaining in the bottle after 7 months should be safely discarded.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not take this medication if you are allergic to levetiracetam or any ingredients of the medication.
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- decreased appetite
- hair loss
- infection such as the common cold
Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- abnormal thoughts or behaviour, hallucinations, or paranoia
- loss of memory or problems with memory
- mood or behaviour changes (e.g., aggression, hostility, rage, anxiety, excitation)
- muscle pain or weakness (especially if accompanied by dark urine)
- problems with muscle control or coordination
- sensation of spinning
- signs of bleeding (e.g., bloody nose, blood in urine, coughing blood, bleeding gums, cuts that don't stop bleeding)
- signs of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
- signs of infection (symptoms may include fever or chills, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, weight loss, or listlessness)
- unexplained bruising
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- signs of a severe skin reaction such as blistering, peeling, a rash covering a large area of the body, a rash that spreads quickly, or a rash combined with fever or discomfort
- symptoms of an allergic reaction (e.g., difficulty breathing, hives, itchy skin rash, or swelling of the mouth or throat)
- thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
- worsening seizures
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Anemia: Levetiracetam may cause low levels of red blood cells. If you experience symptoms of reduced red blood cell count (anemia) such as shortness of breath, feeling unusually tired or pale skin, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells, including red blood cells, in your blood.
Behaviour problems: Some people have reported changes in behaviour associated with taking levetiracetam. There have been occasional reports of aggressive behaviour, anxiety, hostility, and mood swings for people with or without a history of having these problems. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience these feelings or behaviours.
Blood pressure: Children between the ages of 1 month and 4 years are at risk of developing high blood pressure while being treated with levetiracetam. Your child's doctor will monitor this.
Drowsiness/reduced alertness: People with uncontrolled epilepsy should not drive or handle potentially dangerous machinery. Levetiracetam may cause drowsiness or problems with muscle control. If you are taking this medication, do not participate in activities requiring mental alertness or physical coordination until you have determined how this medication affects you.
Heart rhythm: In rare cases, this medication may cause abnormal heart rhythms. If you experience shortness of breath or a slow or irregular heartbeat, contact your doctor immediately. If you have any heart conditions or are taking medications that affect your heartbeat, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Hypersensitivity syndrome: A severe allergic reaction called hypersensitivity syndrome has occurred for some people with the use of levetiracetam. Stop taking the medication and get immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, including fever, swollen glands, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or flu-like symptoms with skin rash or blistering.
Infection: Levetiracetam can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). If you experience fever, sore throat, fatigue, weakness, or generally feel unwell while taking levetiracetam, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells in your blood.
Kidney disease: Kidney disease or reduced kidney function may cause this medication to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have kidney disease or reduced kidney function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. People with poor kidney function may need a lower dose of levetiracetam.
Liver function: In rare cases, levetiracetam has been reported to cause liver failure or inflammation of the liver. Your doctor may monitor your liver function with occasional blood work. If you have liver disease or reduced liver function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Skin rash: Rarely, people taking levetiracetam experience a severe skin reaction that can be life-threatening. If you experience a rash that gets worse, or develops into blisters, sores on the lips or eyes or covers a large area of the body, contact your doctor immediately.
Stopping the medication: As with other medications used to control seizures, stopping this medication suddenly is not recommended because of the possibility of increased seizure frequency. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviour: Occasionally, people taking this medication may experience thoughts of suicide. If you experience these symptoms or any other behaviour change while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately. Family members or caregivers of people who are taking this medication should contact the person's doctor immediately if they notice unusual behaviour changes.
Pregnancy: Levetiracetam may cause harm to the developing baby if the mother takes it when she is pregnant. This medication should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and are taking levetiracetam, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.
Children and adolescents: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children less than 1 month of age with partial onset seizures. The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for the treatment of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy or primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures for children under the age of 12 years.
Seniors: Seniors may need a lower dose of levetiracetam.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between levetiracetam and any of the following:
- antihistamines (e.g., cetirizine, doxylamine, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, loratadine)
- antipsychotics (e.g., chlorpromazine, clozapine, haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone)
- barbiturates (e.g., butalbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital)
- benzodiazepines (e.g., alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam)
- chloral hydrate
- general anesthetics (medications used to put people to sleep before surgery)
- kava kava
- muscle relaxants (e.g., baclofen, cyclobenzaprine, methocarbamol, orphenadrine)
- narcotic pain relievers (e.g., codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone)
- seizure medications (e.g., carbamazepine, clobazam, phenytoin, primidone, topiramate, valproic acid, zonisamide)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; e.g., citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline)
- sodium oxybate
- tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, trimipramine)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.
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