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Felbamate for Epilepsy


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

It is not known exactly how felbamate prevents seizures.

Why It Is Used

Felbamate may be used to prevent partial seizures in adults and children. But it has some very serious side effects.

How Well It Works

Felbamate controls partial seizures in adults very well. In children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, felbamate may reduce seizure frequency.1

Side Effects

Common side effects of felbamate include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.
  • Headache.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Insomnia (sleep problems).

Felbamate can cause serious liver and bone marrow problems. Watch for early signs of liver, bone marrow, or blood problems, such as easy bruising, a change in skin color, prolonged bleeding, fatigue, fever, change in stool color, or a change in the color of the whites of the eyes.

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide in adults and in children and teens.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure you follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • Adverse effects. Felbamate should be used with extreme caution, because it carries a significant risk of liver and bone marrow failure, which can be fatal.
  • Drug interactions. Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you may be taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well, or it may affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking. Felbamate may make birth control pills less effective. A woman taking felbamate may need to use a method of birth control other than birth control pills to reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.
  • Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
  • Other concerns. Despite these risks, felbamate may be used in some people because the drug has been successful in treating seizures that do not respond to other drugs (refractory seizures). This is especially true of children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which does not usually respond well to other drugs. But because of its potentially life-threatening side effects, felbamate should be used only in those people for whom the risks of having seizures are greater than the risks caused by taking felbamate.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.


By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 28, 2013

Last Revised: August 28, 2013

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