On April 25, 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a warning on their website regarding potentially fatal reactions caused by popular seizure and bipolar disorder drug treatment, Lamictal (lamotrigin). The FDA warning described a rare but serious reaction involving the immune system. The drug can excessively activate the immune system to fight an infection, causing severe inflammation throughout the body and potentially leading to hospitalization and death.
Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is an uncontrolled immune system response categorized by persistent fever greater than 101°F. It can lead to severe complications with blood cells and organs throughout the body such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs.
Lamotrigine is used to treat seizures in patients two years and older. It is also used as a treatment for bipolar disorder to help delay mood episodes such as depression, mania, or hypomania. The drug has been approved and on the market for 24 years. It is available under the brand name Lamictal and in generic form.
The FDA has suggested that healthcare professionals be on the lookout for symptoms of HLH in patients treating with lamotrigine as prompt detection and early treatment are important for improving HLH outcomes and decreasing mortality. For patients taking the drug, the FDA warns that you should not immediately stop taking the medication without consulting with your prescribing doctor. Stopping the medication incorrectly or without a replacement can lead to uncontrolled seizures and/or new or worsening mental health problems.
If you or a loved one are taking some form of lamotrigin, please be on the lookout for symptoms of HLH, including;
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