Tiagabine for epilepsy (Gabitril)

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Take your doses of tiagabine during a meal or with a snack.

You need to take tiagabine regularly. Do not stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to.

The most common side-effects are feeling sick, tired, shaky or dizzy.

Type of medicineAn antiepileptic medicine
Used forEpilepsy with partial seizures in adults or children over 12 years of age
Also calledGabitril®
Available asTablets

Having epilepsy means that you have had more than one otherwise unexplained fit, or seizure. A seizure is a short episode of symptoms caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in your brain. With partial seizures (also called focal seizures), the burst of electrical activity is in one part of your brain and therefore you tend to have localised or 'focal' symptoms. Because different parts of the brain control different functions, your symptoms will depend on which part of your brain is affected. Partial seizures can sometimes develop into seizures which affect all of your brain. These are called secondary generalised seizures. Symptoms that may occur during a seizure can affect your muscles, sensations, behaviour, emotions, consciousness, or a combination of these.

The seizures can be prevented in most people by suitable antiepileptic medication. Tiagabine works alongside other antiepileptic medicines to stabilise the electrical activity of your brain. It does this by increasing the amount of a chemical in your brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This helps to prevent the seizures from occurring.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking tiagabine it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby, or breast-feeding.
  • If you have problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have a rare inherited blood condition called porphyria.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about tiagabine and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take tiagabine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your dose will be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said. There are several different strengths of tiagabine tablets. It is usual to start treatment on a low dose, and then for the dose to be increased gradually to a regular maintenance dose. You will begin by taking one or two doses each day, and this may gradually increase to two or three doses a day as your dose becomes fixed.
  • It is important you try to take your doses at the same times of day, each day. Having a routine will help you to remember to take your doses regularly.
  • Swallow the tablet with a drink of water. You should take tiagabine with, or straight after, a meal or a snack.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If when you remember, it is nearly time for your next dose then take your next dose when it is due but leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • When you first start a new treatment for epilepsy there may be a change in the number or type of seizures you experience. Your doctor will advise you about this.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • While you are being treated for epilepsy there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes, distressing thoughts and feelings about suicide. If this happens, you must tell your doctor about it straightaway.
  • People with epilepsy must stop driving at first. Your doctor will advise you about when it may be possible for you to start driving again. This will usually be after a year free of seizures.
  • If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice. Your doctor may advise you not to drink alcohol while you are on this medicine.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take with your antiepileptic medication.
  • Many antiepileptic medicines can harm an unborn child. If you are a woman, make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner. If you want to have a family, discuss this with your doctor so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant.
  • You need to take tiagabine regularly every day. Do not stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to stop. Stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will want you to reduce your dose gradually if this becomes necessary.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with tiagabine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Very common tiagabine side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling dizzy, shaky, tired or nervousIf any of these happen, do not drive or use tools or machines
Feeling sickStick to simple meals - avoid rich and spicy food
Common tiagabine side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)What can I do if I experience this?
Stomach discomfort, diarrhoeaStick to simple meals and drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids
Blurred visionDo not drive or use tools or machines. If it continues, let your doctor know, as you may need to have an eye assessment
Feeling unsteady, lack of concentration, mood changes, difficulties sleeping, speech difficulties, and muscle twitchesIf any of these become troublesome, let your doctor know

Important: your doctor will discuss with you the possibility that tiagabine can cause more severe reactions in a few people. Although these occur less commonly than the symptoms listed above, it is important that you contact your doctor straightaway if you experience any of the following:

  • A severe rash.
  • Any unusual bruising.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light. Keep the tablets in their original bottle until you are ready to take them. This is because they absorb moisture from the air and there is a drying agent in the bottle to help prevent this.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3895 (v25)
Last Checked:
08/01/2015
Next Review:
07/01/2018
The Information Standard - certified member

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