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Gabapentin / GBP / Neurontin

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1 Gabapentin / GBP / Neurontin on Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:18 pm

TJW

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Gabapentin (gab-ah-PEN-tin) is the generic name (non-brand name) of the seizure medicine Neurontin (nur-ON-tin)used in the United States, Canada, the UK, and some other countries. Another commonly used name for gabapentin is GBP.

Gabapentin was purposely designed to be similar to one of the major chemical neurotransmitters in the human brain, GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter—that is, it prevents nerve cells in the brain from firing too quickly, as they do in seizures. As it turns out, however, gabapentin does not act like GABA in the brain. It was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, and has been taken by over two million patients since then.

Gabapentin is manufactured in the United States by Pfizer Inc. through a subsidiary called Greenstone Ltd. It is also manufactured by IVAX and Alpharma. The name or appearance of gabapentin may be different in various countries but usually the dose (measured in milligrams, abbreviated "mg") will be the same.

How to take and store Gabapentin
Follow your doctor's directions. Call if you have any questions. Gabapentin usually needs to be taken three times a day.

It's OK to take gabapentin either with food or without food, but it’s best to be consistent day after day.

Antacids such as Maalox affect the absorption of gabapentin, so they shouldn't be taken within 2 hours of a dose of this medicine.

Swallow the capsules or tablets whole.

Be careful if the doctor writes a new prescription using a different strength pill. For example, if you've been using 300-mg capsules and the new prescription is for 600-mg tablets, be careful to use the correct number. Don't automatically continue to use the same number of pills as before.

Store the capsules or tablets at room temperature, away from dampness and direct light. (Don't keep them in the bathroom if it's damp there.) Keep all forms of gabapentin out of the reach of children.

Take only the amount that your doctor tells you to take. If you think you've taken one extra tablet or capsule, call the doctor for advice. For a larger overdose, call the poison control center or your hospital's emergency room. Even people who have taken extremely large doses have all recovered, however, with appropriate medical care.

Don't stop taking gabapentin or change the amount you take without talking to your doctor first. Stopping any seizure medicine all at once can cause serious problems.

What if I forget?
If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, you should delay that dose for a few hours, instead of taking two doses very close together.

Do your best to follow the doctor's directions. If you forget doses often, it may be a good idea to get a special pillbox or watch with an alarm to remind you.

Gabapentin is effective for partial and secondarily generalized seizures—that is, seizures that begin in a limited area of the brain. It does not prevent primary generalized seizures such as absence, myoclonic, or primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures, which involve both sides of the brain at the same time.

It does not interact with any other seizure medicines or other types of medication, so it is easy to use along with other seizure medicines (so-called adjunctive therapy) to treat partial epilepsy.

It is not fully known how gabapentin affects the brain to stop seizures. The current theory is that gabapentin causes brain cells to make more GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When GABA is transmitted from one brain cell to another, the second brain cell is less likely to fire and be part of a seizure.

Gabapentin seldom causes problems from side effects. People who do report side effects most often mention:

tiredness
sleepiness
dizziness
weight gain
ankle swelling

These effects usually are mild and tend to improve after several weeks:

headache
unsteadiness
double vision
tremor
stomach upset
behavioral problems such as irritability and hyperactivity (in children, especially those with pre-existing behavioral disturbances)

If you notice problems like any of these while you are taking gabapentin, it's probably a good idea to discuss them with your doctor or nurse. Don't stop taking gabapentin or any other seizure medicine without the doctor's advice. Sometimes the doctor can help with these side effects by changing the prescription:

reducing the overall amount
prescribing smaller doses, to be taken more often
changing the amount taken at certain times, such as taking a greater proportion at bedtime to reduce daytime sleepiness

Some people who take gabapentin actually experience beneficial effects on mood and emotional well-being. Doctors are exploring whether it can be used to treat disorders like depression and anxiety. Preliminary evidence suggests that gabapentin may help to stabilize mood in bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder and social phobia, a type of anxiety disorder. No problems with memory or learning have been observed.

Allergic reactions
There do not appear to be any allergic reactions to gabapentin.

Long-term side effects
The long-term side effects of gabapentin are not known.

Pregnancy Category C. This indicates that caution is advised, but the benefits of the medication may outweigh the potential risks. There have been no good scientific studies in women, but studies in animals have shown some harm to the fetus.

In general, the risk of defects is higher for women who take more than one AED and for women with a family history of birth defects. Whether this applies to Gabapentin is not yet known.

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