Lamotrigine or generic Lamictal® first became available in 2005, and it is now manufactured by a number of companies and easy to find in countries like the US and Canada. As with most generics, it is a less expensive alternative than the brand-name drug Lamictal®, making it easier to purchase for those who lack prescription drug insurance, and usually it makes the formulary list of preferred drugs of most insurance companies. The differences between lamotrigine and the brand name drug are extremely slight, having to do with slight changes in inactive ingredients. Most doctors feel absolutely comfortable prescribing the generic form as an acceptable alternative to the brand name type.
There are many things for which generic Lamictal® may be suited. It is approved for the treatment of certain epileptic disorders and is also the first drug since lithium to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Bipolar Disorder I. Other anti-convulsants like Depakote® and Tegretol® lack this FDA nod, though they are commonly used and effective too. However, one of the main benefits of using generic Lamictal® over lithium and Tegretol® (carbamazepine) is that blood levels don’t have to be monitored.
This doesn’t mean lamotrigine is a problem free drug. There are several risks associated with taking it. First, like most anti-convulsants it now carries an FDA black box warning about its potential to create suicidality especially in children, teens and young adults. Another black box warning exists for the drug’s potential to cause several deadly skin reactions. One of these is Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which can cause extensive skin cell death, and another is toxic epidermal necrolysis, which is sometimes considered to be an even more severe form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
To help prevent these from occurring, most people will begin generic Lamictal® in small doses, gradually building up to a dose in which a condition is treated. This means that initial doses may have to be paired with other medication to either control seizures or bipolar disorder. If a person is extremely ill with epileptic conditions or with bipolar, lamotrigine may not be the best first choice. Introducing it at effective doses creates greater risk for developing very serious skin reactions. Most people who develop any form of rash on this medication discontinue it immediately.
There are other common side effects associated with lamotrigine and these could include headaches, dizziness, poor sleep, vivid dreaming, dry mouth, acne, loss of focus or concentration, loss of hair, weight changes and changes in libido or sexual interest. The medication is not recommended for pregnant women, unless benefits outweigh risk, or for nursing women since long term effects of it on developing or nursing children are not known. It may also interact poorly with other medications. Patients should give a full medical history to the prescribing doctor and include a list of any medications they take.
Despite the fact that generic Lamictal® can have some side effects and hazards some serious risks, it is often considered a lower side effect drug and a good choice to treat some illnesses. Many people tolerate the medication well and find it greatly improves symptoms. It will not work for all people who take it, either to treat seizures or bipolar disorder, but its usefulness has been clearly demonstrated by research.