Sodium valproate

Sounds like 'SO-dee-um val-PRO-ate'

Easy-to-read medicine information about sodium valproate – what it is, how to take sodium valproate safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine

Also called

  • Anti-epileptic medication (to prevent fits)
  • Epilim®

What is sodium valproate?

  • Sodium valproate has many uses.
  • Sodium valproate blocks certain kinds of nerve activity, and in this way reduces fits, relieves migraine and helps with mood disorders.


  • The dose of sodium valproate will be different for different people.
  • Your doctor will start you on a low dose, and increase your dose slowly over a few weeks.
  • Always take your sodium valproate exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much sodium valproate to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take sodium valproate

  • Swallow your sodium valproate tablets with a glass of water.
  • Take sodium valproate at the same times each day.
  • Sodium valproate is best taken with food.
  • Sodium valproate is available as short-acting or immediate release tablets, or as long-acting or slow-release tablets. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure which formulation you are taking.
  • The long-acting tablets must be swallowed whole. Do not crush or chew. This will release all the medication at once and cause side effects.
  • The short-acting tablets can be crushed or chewed.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking sodium valproate. It can increase your chance of side effects.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day.
  • But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking sodium valproate regularly every day. Do not stop taking sodium valproate suddenly; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.

Special instructions

  • Extra care is needed when taking sodium valproate.
  • DO NOT get pregnant while taking sodium valproate. Discuss the use of reliable forms of birth control with your doctor.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, sodium valproate can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired
  • Feeling dizzy, or faint
  • This is common when starting sodium valproate.
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset
  • Try taking sodium valproate with food
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Signs of an allergic reactions such as skin rash, itches, hives, swelling of the face, lips and mouth, problems breathing 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine
  • Signs of problems with your liver such as severe tummy pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine


  • Sodium valproate may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting sodium valproate or before starting any new medicines.
  • Do not take indigestion medication (antacids) within 2 hours of taking sodium valproate.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet Epilim

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: sodium valproate

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, NZ. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft, GP