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Ethosuximide

pronounced as(eth oh sux' i mide)

Why is this medication prescribed?

Ethosuximide is used to control absence seizures (petit mal) (a type of seizure in which there is a very short loss of awareness during which the person may stare straight ahead or blink his eyes and does not respond to others). Ethosuximide is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants. It works by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

How should this medicine be used?

Ethosuximide comes as a capsule and as a syrup (liquid) to take by mouth. It is usually taken one or more times a day. Take ethosuximide at around the same time(s) every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take ethosuximide exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of ethosuximide and gradually increase your dose, usually once every 4 to 7 days.

Ethosuximide may help to control your condition, but will not cure it. Continue to take ethosuximide even if you feel well. Do not stop taking ethosuximide without talking to your doctor, even if you experience side effects such as unusual changes in behavior or mood. If you suddenly stop taking ethosuximide, your seizures may worsen. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.

Other uses for this medicine

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This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

What special precautions should I follow?

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Before taking ethosuximide,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to ethosuximide, methsuximide (Celontin), or any other medications.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention antidepressants; other medications for seizures such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote); medications for pain; sedatives; sleeping pills; or tranquilizers. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had mental illness or kidney or liver disease.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking ethosuximide, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking ethosuximide.
  • you should know that this medication may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
  • ask your doctor about the safe use of alcohol while you are taking this medication.
  • you should know that your mental health may change in unexpected ways and you may become suicidal (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so) while you are taking ethosuximide. A small number of adults and children 5 years of age and older (about 1 in 500 people) who took anticonvulsants such as ethosuximide to treat various conditions during clinical studies became suicidal during their treatment. Some of these people developed suicidal thoughts and behavior as early as one week after they started taking the medication. There is a risk that you may experience changes in your mental health if you take an anticonvulsant medication such as ethosuximide, but there may also be a risk that you will experience changes in your mental health if your condition is not treated. You and your doctor will decide whether the risks of taking an anticonvulsant medication are greater than the risks of not taking the medication. You, your family, or your caregiver should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: panic attacks; agitation or restlessness; new or worsening irritability, anxiety, or depression; acting on dangerous impulses; difficulty falling or staying asleep; aggressive, angry, or violent behavior; mania (frenzied, abnormally excited mood); talking or thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or to end your life; withdrawing from friends and family; preoccupation with death and dying; giving away prized possessions; or any other unusual changes in behavior or mood. Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

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Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

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Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

What side effects can this medication cause?

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Ethosuximide may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • stomach pain or cramps

  • loss of appetite

  • weight loss

  • swelling of the tongue

  • overgrowth of the gums

  • hiccups

  • drowsiness

  • dizziness

  • headache

  • suddenly awakening from sleep in a frightened state

  • difficulty concentrating

  • hair growth in unusual places

  • near-sightedness

  • vaginal bleeding

Some side effects may be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, or those mentioned in the SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS section, call your doctor immediately:

  • sore throat, fever, chills, and other signs of infection

  • joint pain or swelling

  • muscle pain

  • red, itchy rash, especially on the face

  • fever with no known cause

  • hives

  • blisters

Ethosuximide may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

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Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature, away from light, excess heat, and moisture (not in the bathroom). Do not allow the syrup to freeze. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

In case of emergency/overdose

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In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of overdose may include:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • decreased alertness

  • slowed breathing

  • coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)

What other information should I know?

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Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your body's response to ethosuximide.

Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

Brand names

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  • Zarontin®

Last Revised - 05/01/2009

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AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, 2014. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.