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BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have epilepsy. It tells you about lamotrigine, a drug used for epilepsy. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Probably. If you or your child has epilepsy, taking lamotrigine may reduce your seizures or stop them altogether. But it does have side effects.

We don't know if lamotrigine works any better or any worse than other drugs for epilepsy.

What is it?

Lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal) is a newer epilepsy drug that is used to prevent seizures. You may also hear it called an anti-epileptic drug ( AED) or an anti-convulsant. There are many epilepsy drugs and they work in different ways so it may take some time for your doctor to find the right treatment for you. [48]

Some adults and children may be prescribed lamotrigine on its own if they find that older drugs for epilepsy ( phenobarbital, phenytoin, valproate, or carbamazepine) cause bad side effects or don't help. [71] [50] Or it may be combined with other epilepsy drugs if your doctor can't find just one drug to stop your seizures. To learn more, see Taking more than one drug for epilepsy if you have partial seizures.

All epilepsy drugs come as tablets. For practical advice on managing your treatment, see Taking epilepsy drugs.

You should see your doctor for a check-up at least once a year to talk about how you are getting on with treatment, including any side effects. [49]

How can it help?

About two-thirds of people with epilepsy can control their seizures with one epilepsy drug. The seizures may stop, be less severe, or happen less often than they did before. [50]

We don't know for certain which epilepsy drugs work best, or if they all work about the same.

One study found that lamotrigine may work as well as carbamazepine and topiramate for partial seizures but with fewer side effects, so people may be less likely to stop taking it. [57] (Partial seizures affect only part of the brain. To learn more, see What are the symptoms of epilepsy?) But this study was unblinded, which means patients and their doctors knew what treatments were being used. This could have affected the study's results.

Other studies have also found that people may be less likely to stop taking lamotrigine, but that carbamazepine controls seizures better. [56]

How does it work?

When you have a seizure, the nerve cells in your brain become over-excited and produce electrical signals faster than usual and in bursts. Epilepsy drugs calm down this activity. But doctors know very little about how the drugs actually do this. Also, different epilepsy drugs seem to work in different ways.

Lamotrigine seems to work by blocking the channels that electrical signals use to get into brain cells. [58] [59] Nerve cells in the brain work by sending electrical signals to each other. On the surface of each cell, there are channels, like doors, to let electrical signals in. Some epilepsy drugs stick to the channels that are closed and keep them closed. This stops the over-excited cells making the rapid electrical signals that cause seizures. [59]

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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