Q: My question is regarding Felbatol. When it first came out, my husband began taking it with no side effects. In fact, he was able to stop taking Zarontin and Primidone completely and working on reducing Dilantin. Then, a couple of people died using Felbatol and it was pulled from the market. Is this drug back on the market and has it been changed in any way?
Linda in Florida
A: Felbamate (Felbatol) was never actually removed from the market, and it is available by prescription at any pharmacy. There was concern about felbamate because some persons had developed aplastic anemia (bone marrow failure) while taking felbamate. In most cases, this occurred within the first year of treatment. There have also been reports of liver failure on this medication. An FDA advisory panel recommended its continued availability to treat persons with severe epilepsy, and thus it continues to be available. However, there are now recommendations to have blood counts and liver studies drawn regularly to monitor for this.
Whether your husband should take this medication needs to be determined after weighting the risks. Although there are risks of taking felbamate, there are also risks from uncontrolled seizures, which include injury and even death. If it is the only medication that controls your husband's seizures, then this may be a worthwhile question to pursue with his doctors.