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Ann Pharmacother. 2000 May;34(5):630-8.

The role of carnitine supplementation during valproic acid therapy.

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College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, St. John's University, Jamaica, NY 11439, USA.



To review the pathophysiology and significance of valproic acid-induced carnitine deficiency; to present and evaluate the literature pertaining to carnitine supplementation in pediatric patients receiving valproic acid; and to present the consensus guidelines for carnitine supplementation during valproic acid therapy.


A MEDLINE search (1966-December 1998) restricted to English-language literature, using MeSH headings of carnitine and valproic acid, was conducted to identify clinically relevant articles. Selected articles and references focusing on the pediatric population were included for review.


Study design, patient population, methods, and clinical outcomes were evaluated.


Valproic acid, a widely used antiepileptic agent in the pediatric population, is limited by a 1/800 incidence of fatal hepatotoxicity in children under the age of two years. Carnitine is an essential amino acid necessary in beta-oxidation of fatty acids and energy production in cellular mitochondria. It has been hypothesized that valproic acid may induce a carnitine deficiency in children and cause nonspecific symptoms of deficiency, hepatotoxicity, and hyperammonemia. Relevant published case reports and trials studying this relationship are evaluated, and a consensus statement by the Pediatric Neurology Advisory Committee is reviewed.


Despite the lack of prospective, randomized clinical trials documenting efficacy of carnitine supplementation in preventing valproic acid-induced hepatotoxicity, the few limited studies available have shown carnitine supplementation to result in subjective and objective improvements along with increases in carnitine serum concentrations in patients receiving valproic acid. The Pediatric Neurology Advisory Committee in 1996 provided more concrete indications on the role of carnitine in valproic acid therapy, such as valproic acid overdose and valproic acid-induced hepatotoxicity. Carnitine was strongly recommended for children at risk of developing a carnitine deficiency. Although carnitine has been well tolerated, future studies are needed to evaluate the efficacy of prophylactic carnitine supplementation for the prevention of hepatotoxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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