Topamax Uses

Topamax is a prescription anticonvulsant medication manufactured by Johnson & Johnson which is used to treat both migraine headaches and certain seizures associated with epilepsy. The main ingredient in Topamax is topiramate, which functions by reducing impulses in the brain which are responsible for seizure-related episodes. Topamax is taken orally, either as a 25mg, 50mg, 100mg, or 200mg tablet or as a 15mg or 25mg sprinkle capsule, which can be swallowed whole or the contents sprinkled on a small amount of food. Topamax was originally approved by the FDA in 1996 to prevent seizures associated with epilepsy, and the FDA included an additional indicated for the medication in 2004, for the treatment of migraine headaches. Topamax is also often used for off-label purposes, including the treatment of bipolar disorder, although the FDA has not approved the drug to be used in this manner. Topamax is used either by itself or in combination with other anti-seizure medications in order to treat migraines and epileptic seizures.

Topamax Use for Treating Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by repeated spontaneous seizures which occur when electrical signals in the brain are abnormally excited, resulting in disturbed brain function and changes in behavior or attention. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 2.3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, with 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year. In order to treat epilepsy, physicians may prescribe one or more of a number of anticonvulsant medications intended to prevent seizure-related episodes. Unfortunately, some anticonvulsant medications have been associated with severe adverse side effects, particularly the development of major birth defects in infants whose mothers take anti-seizure drugs while pregnant. For example, since its introduction, Topamax has become one of the most popular anti-epileptic drugs on the market. However, recent studies have indicated a potential connection between Topamax use during pregnancy and birth defects in infants, including genital defects like hypospadias, and craniofacial malformations like cleft lip and cleft palate. Despite these potential Topamax side effects dangers, Topamax remains on the market, approved to treat partial onset seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures in adults and children ten years and older.

Partial Onset Seizures

Partial-onset seizures account for nearly 60% of all seizures, and are categorized as either simple or complex. Simple partial-onset seizures may cause an individual to experience abnormal sensations including a general strange feeling, an unpleasant smell, or an irregular body movement, such as a jerk of the arm. Complex partial-onset seizures may cause a significant loss of awareness, staring, confusion, and abnormal bodily movements like smacking the lips, rubbing the hands, or uncontrolled shouting. While generalized seizures usually affect nerves cells throughout the brain, partial-onset seizures typically take place in one area of the brain.

Primary Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizures

Primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures represent one of the most serious forms of epilepsy and typically affect the entire brain. This type of seizure usually begins with stiffening of the limbs, which is the tonic phase, followed by jerking of the limbs and face, which describes the clonic phase. During the tonic phase, the affected individual may stop breathing altogether, causing cyanosis (blue tint to the skin). Breathing typically resumes during the clonic phase of the seizure, but it may be abnormal or labored. Individuals suffering from generalized tonic-clonic seizures may also bite the inside of their mouth or tongue and also experience incontinence. Following the seizure, the individual may be fatigued, confused and may experience a headache.

Topamax in Treating Migraines

Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, a form of vascular headache caused by the enlargement of blood vessels. When these blood vessels are enlarged, chemicals are released by the nerve fibers surrounding the brain, causing pain and inflammation. The development of chronic migraine headaches can be an extremely debilitating condition, affecting numerous aspects of an individual’s daily life, including personal relationships and work or school attendance. Most individuals who experience recurring painful headaches suffer from migraines, a condition which affects three times more women than men, especially women of childbearing age. Medications intended for the prevention of migraine headaches are typically taken daily. Unfortunately, certain migraine treatment medications, particularly Topamax and topiramate, have allegedly been linked to an increased risk of Topamamx birth defects among infants exposed to the drug in utero, making the drug particularly dangerous for women of childbearing age to take.

Topamax and Pregnancy Dangers

Because of the potential connection between Topamax use and major birth defects in infants, the safety of the anticonvulsant Topamax has recently been reevaluated. According to a spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology, Topamax may no longer be considered an appropriate treatment method for the prevention of migraine headaches. The tolerance for risk is different for epilepsy patients because seizures can pose a significant risk for the fetus. While migraine headaches can be debilitating for the mother, they typically do not endanger the fetus. Therefore, the possible benefits of a migraine headache treatment which may result in birth injuries in children are unlikely to outweigh the potential risks of the medication.

Even for women with epilepsy, the allegedly increased risk of birth defects like cleft lip, genital defects, and cleft palate in infants may outweigh the possible benefits of Topamax. In fact, the FDA has increased Topamax’s pregnancy category from C to D, meaning the drug has the potential to cause significant, unreasonable harm to a human fetus, and has also released a recent safety announcement regarding the potential connection between Topamax and birth defects like cleft lip and cleft palate. According to recent research, infants who are exposed to Topamax in utero may be eleven times more likely to develop cleft lip or cleft palate, and fourteen times more likely to develop genital defects like hypospadias. Additional data suggests that 1.4% of infants whose mothers take Topamax while pregnant may be born with cleft palate or cleft lip, a significantly higher percentage compared to 0.38-0.55% of infants born to women who take other anti-seizure medications, and 0.07% on infants born to women who take no anticonvulsant medications at all. According to researchers, the birth defect rate was highest when Topamax was taken in combination with valproate, the active ingredient in another anticonvulsant drug called Depakote.  Legal action and possible Topamax class action lawsuits are being formed for injuries allegedly attributed to these types of anticonvulsant birth defects.

A Topamax Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one has suffered from a birth defect like cleft lip, cleft palate or hypospadias, and you believe Topamax to be the cause, contact a Topamax attorney as soon as possible. You may have grounds to file a Topamax lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in order to seek financial reimbursement for your injuries, the expenses resulting from treatment, and the pain and suffering sustained by you and your family. Defective drug lawsuits also bring public attention to the importance of safe medications and the need for more stringent regulations on the potentially dangerous drugs already on the market. Topamax lawyers are extremely qualified in defective drug litigation and can help victims of alleged Topamax birth defects collect the compensation they deserve.