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Depakene - Scientific Information

Manufacture: Abbott
Country: Canada
Condition: Epilepsy, Mania, Migraine Prevention (Migraine Prophylaxis), Schizoaffective Disorder, Seizure Prevention (Seizure Prophylaxis), Seizures (Convulsions)
Class: Fatty acid derivative anticonvulsants
Form: Capsules
Ingredients: valproic acid, corn oil, gelatin mass, ink (Light Redwood), lecithin, medium chain triglycerides, nitrogen

Pharmaceutical Information

Proper name:valproic acid
Chemical name:2-propylpentanoic acid or dipropylacetic acid
Molecular formula
and molecular
Structural formula:

Valproic acid is a clear colorless to faint brown viscous liquid having a characteristic odor. The bulk drug substance displays solubility characteristics consistent with aliphatic carboxylic acids having limited solubility in water. The compound is freely soluble in dilute base and slightly soluble in dilute aqueous mineral acids.

Detailed Pharmacology


Valproic acid has been shown to be effective against several types of chemically and electrically induced convulsions in a variety of animal species. These included maximal electroshock, low frequency electroshock, CO2 withdrawal, pentylene tetrazole, cobalt, bemegride, bicuculline and 1-glutamate. Many forms of photic and auditory induced seizures are also effectively blocked by valproic acid.

In animal studies, valproic acid at doses of 175 mg/kg or less had no effect on locomotor activity and conditioned responses to positive reinforcement.

Doses greater than 175 mg/kg inhibited spontaneous and conditioned behaviour in mice and rats and interfered with coordination of hind limbs in rats. Suppression of spontaneous and evoked brain potentials was also demonstrated at these higher dose levels.

Valproic acid at doses of 175 mg/kg or less had little or no effect on the autonomic nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiration, body temperature, inflammatory responses, smooth muscle contraction or renal activity. Intravenous doses of 22, 43 and 86 mg/kg in animals caused very transient decreases followed by compensatory increases in blood pressure.

Sodium valproate injectable caused decreased activity, ataxia, dyspnea, prostration and death in rats and mice acutely exposed to dosages exceeding 200 mg/kg.


The initial animal testing was done with sodium valproate, whereas most of the recent research has been with valproic acid. The conversion factor is such that 100 mg of the sodium salt is equivalent to 87 mg of the acid. References to dosage are in terms of valproic acid activity.

Acute Toxicity

Acute toxicity has been determined in several animal species using oral, intravenous, intraperitoneal and subcutaneous routes. The oral median lethal dose in adult rats and dogs was about 1 to 2 g/kg. Toxicity was similar for both sexes; however, it tended to be greater in newborn and 14-day old rats and in young adult rats. The signs of toxicity were those of central nervous system depression. Specific organ damage was limited to cellular debris in reticuloendothelial tissue and slight fatty degeneration of the liver.

Large oral doses (more than 500 mg/kg) produced irritation of the gastrointestinal tract of rats.

In adult male mice, the oral medial lethal dose of divalproex sodium was 1.66 g/kg (equal to approximately 1.54 g/kg valproic acid).

Pulverized divalproex sodium enteric-coated tablets (equivalent to 250 mg valproic acid), suspended in 0.2% methylcellulose, were administered orally to mice and rats of both sexes (10/sex/species/group) in dosages ranging from 1.74 to 4.07 g/kg. The oral median lethal dose (LD50) ranged from 2.06 to 2.71 g/kg. No consistent sex-related or species-related differences were observed.

Signs of central nervous system depression, such as decreased activity, ataxia, and sleep, were observed. At necropsy, discolouration and/or thickening of the glandular mucosa were observed in only 2 female rats treated with 2.71 g/kg that died acutely.

When mature rats and dogs were administered up to 240 mg/kg/day or 120 mg/kg/day, respectively, for at least four consecutive weeks, no significant toxicologic effects were reported. However, significant reductions in testicular weights and total white cell counts in rats given 240 mg/kg/day were considered as evidence of subtle toxicity from sodium valproate injectable. Therefore, 90 mg/kg/day in rats and 120 mg/kg/day in dogs were considered the highest nontoxic doses.

The acute intravenous toxicity of sodium valproate injectable formulation containing the equivalent of 100 mg valproic acid/mL was evaluated in both sexes of mice and rats. Groups of mice and rats (five/sex/species/group) were treated at dosages ranging from 0.5 to 9.0 mL/kg (50 to 900 mg valproate/kg). No overt signs of toxicity were present in rats and mice given 0.5 mL/kg (50 mg valproate/kg). LD50 values for the test solution in mice and rats (data combined for both sexes) were 7.3 and 7.0 mL/mg (730 and 700 mg valproate/kg), respectively.

Subacute and Chronic Toxicity

Subacute and chronic toxicity studies consisted of 1, 3, 6 and 18 months studies in rats and 3, 6 and 12 months studies in dogs. Pathologic changes included suppression of the hematopoietic system, depletion of lymphocytes from lymphoid tissues and the loss of germinal epithelial cells from seminiferous tubules. Reduced spermatogenesis and testicular atrophy occurred in dogs at doses greater than 90 mg/kg/day and in rats at doses greater than 350 mg/kg/day. In rats, the first indication of toxicity at 350 mg/kg/day was decreased food consumption and growth.

Mutagenicity and Carcinogenicity


Valproate was not mutagenic in an in vitro bacterial assay (Ames test), did not produce dominant lethal effects in mice, and did not increase chromosome aberration frequency in an in vivo cytogenetic study in rats. Increased frequencies of sister chromatid exchange (SCE) have been reported in a study of epileptic children taking valproate, but this association was not observed in another study conducted in adults. There is some evidence that increased SCE frequencies may be associated with epilepsy. The biological significance of increase in SCE frequency is not known.


Two hundred rats were given valproic acid in the diet for 107 weeks. Mean doses consumed in the treatment period were: 81 mg/kg/day (males) and 85 mg/kg/day (females), in the low dose group; 161 mg/kg/day (males) and 172 mg/kg/day (females) in the high dose group (approximately 10 to 50% of the maximum human daily dose on a mg/m2 basis). Control animals received corn oil in the diet. The chief finding in the study was an increased incidence of skin fibrosarcomas in treated males of the high-dose group. There were 2 such neoplasms in the low dose group, 5 in the high dose group and none in control males. Fibrosarcomas in rats are relatively infrequent, usually occurring in less than 3% of animals.

Valproic acid was also administered in the diet to female mice for nearly 19 months at doses of 81 and 163 mg/kg/day and to male mice for nearly 23 months at doses of 80 and 159 mg/kg/day. A significant dose related trend occurred in male mice in the incidence of bronchoalveolar adenomas, and when the data were adjusted for the times of death, the incidence in the high dose group was significantly increased.

Depending on the method of statistical analysis, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinomas and/or adenomas also showed significant or almost significant increases for the corresponding observations. The results of these two studies indicate that valproic acid in a weak carcinogen or promoter in rats and mice. The significance of these findings for humans is unknown at present.

Reproduction and Teratology

Studies in rats have shown placental transfer of the drug. Doses greater than 65 mg/kg/day given to rats, mice and rabbits produced an increased incidence of skeletal abnormalities of the ribs, vertebrae and palate.

Doses greater than 150 mg/kg/day given to pregnant rabbits produced fetal resorptions and (primarily) soft-tissue abnormalities in the offspring.

In rats, there was a dose related delay in onset of parturition. Post-natal growth and survival of the progeny were adversely affected, particularly when drug administration spanned the entire gestation and early lactation period. Embryolethality or major developmental abnormalities occurred in rats and rabbits at doses of 350 mg/kg/day.

Survival among pups born to the high dose females was very poor but was improved when pups were transferred to control dams shortly after birth.


Chronic toxicity studies in juvenile and adult rats and dogs demonstrated reduced spermatogenesis and testicular atrophy at oral doses of valproic acid of 400 mg/kg/day or greater in rats (approximately equivalent to or greater than the maximum human daily dose on a mg/m2 basis) and 150 mg/kg/day or greater in dogs (approximately 1.4 times the maximum human daily dose or greater on a mg/m2 basis). Segment I fertility studies in rats have shown that oral doses up to 350 mg/kg/day (approximately equal to the maximum human daily dose on a mg/m2 basis) for 60 days have no effect on fertility.

The effect of valproate on testicular development and on sperm production and fertility in umans is unknown.