Does this drug cause heart problems?

Lamotrigine is a commonly prescribed drug that has been on the market in the United States for over 25 years. Like almost all medicines, lamotrigine can cause side effects and other potential risks.

In 2021 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new warning about a possible link between the use of lamotrigine and the risk of heart arrhythmias in people with heart disease. The agency also said it would update the public with additional information from investigations.

The announcement made many people concerned about the safety of the medication. For example, they wondered whether people with heart problems can take lamotrigine or whether it can cause high cholesterol. Scientists investigate those questions by reviewing existing data and conducting new research.

In this article, we’ll discuss the possible side effects of lamotrigine, what healthcare professionals use it for, and why you should consult your healthcare team before starting this drug.

Lamotrigine is a prescription drug that health care professionals may use to treat seizures in adults and children with epilepsy or a condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. They may also prescribe it to adults with bipolar disorder to stabilize mood swings.

The drug is in a class of drugs called anticonvulsants. It works by reducing irregular electrical activity in the brain.

Lamotrigine is sold under the brand name Lamictal and is available in several formulations, including:

  • quick-swallow tablets
  • extended-release tablets
  • orally disintegrating tablets
  • chewable, dispersible tablets

According to the FDAA review of studies suggested that lamotrigine may increase the risk of serious arrhythmias in people with heart disease, such as:

The agency noted that the risk of arrhythmias may increase even more if people with heart disease take lamotrigine in combination with a sodium channel blocker.

While this report did not address the correlation between lamotrigine and cholesterol, other studies looked at the relationship, and several found no negative association.

A 2018 study examined the effect of commonly prescribed anticonvulsants, including lamotrigine, levetiracetam, carbamazepine, phenytoin, on cholesterol levels. The results showed that lamotrigine did not significantly increase total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, or triglycerides.

However, carbamazepine, phenytoin and levetiracetam did significantly increase total cholesterol levels. The authors concluded that lamotrigine does not appear to have a substantial effect on lipid profiles and may be a better treatment choice for some individuals.

In another study from 2018, researchers analyzed how the drugs lamotrigine, carbamazepine and levetiracetam affected older adults taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. They found that cholesterol levels were significantly lower in people taking lamotrigine compared to those taking carbamazepine and levetiracetam.

A small, older study from 2009 found that participants who switched from carbamazepine or phenytoin to lamotrigine saw a reduction in total cholesterol levels just 6 weeks after the switch.

Aside from possible heart problems, there are other side effects and risks associated with taking lamotrigine.

The FDA issued the following warnings about the medication:

  • In 2006The agency has issued a warning to inform the public that taking lamotrigine during pregnancy may increase the risk of oral fissures in newborns.
  • In 2009the agency provided information showing that lamotrigine may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior.
  • In 2010the FDA informed the public that lamotrigine can cause a condition called aseptic meningitis.
  • In 2018the FDA released a safety notice warning that lamotrigine can cause a rare but serious reaction that over-activates the body’s immune system.

Some other possible side effects of lamotrigine Involving:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • back, chest, or abdominal pain
  • swelling
  • dry mouth
  • missed periods or pain during menstruation
  • changes in weight
  • constipation
  • general pain or weakness
  • insomnia
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness or trouble with balance
  • vision problems
  • headache
  • anxiety or irritability

Studies have shown that older anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, and valproate, can affect bone mineral density and increase the risk of bone fractures. However, data on lamotrigine are limited. For example, a 2017 study in rats showed that the drugs had no impact on bone strength, bone mineral density or bone turnover.

Lamotrigine is a popular drug that doctors can prescribe to treat seizures and prevent episodes of bipolar disorder. While new data shows that the medication may increase the risk of arrhythmias in some individuals with heart disease, many studies to date show that it does not appear to affect cholesterol levels.

Every drug carries risks, and lamotrigine is no exception. It is important to discuss any concerns about this drug with your doctor.

Does this drug cause heart problems?

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