by Teri Robert, MyMigraineConnection Lead Expert
How to best taper up to therapeutic dosage
Topamax (topiramate) is a medication originally developed for seizure control. It is also FDA approved for Migraine prevention.
Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Jefferson Headache Center and Professor of Neurology at Thomas Jefferson University, conducted some of the clinical trials of Topamax for Migraine prevention and prescribes it for some of his patients. He emphasizes that proper dosage and titration (tapering up the dosage) is essential for successful use of Topamax.
Here are his recommendations for safely tapering up to a therapeutic dosage level:
- Week 1: 25 mg at bedtime
- Week 2: 25 mg, twice a day
- Week 3: 25 mg day dose, 50 mg bedtime dose
- Week 4: 50 mg, twice a day
- Weeks 5 - 7: maintain 50 mg, twice a day. If that isn’t effective in reducing the frequency and severity of Migraine, progress through weeks 8 - 11 if necessary.
- Week 8: 50 mg day dose, 75 mg bedtime dose
- Week 9: 75 mg, twice a day
- Week 10: 75 mg day dose, 100 mg bedtime dose
- Week 11: 100 mg twice a day
- Weeks 12 - 18. Maintain 100 mg twice a day.
- If 100 mg twice a day doesn’t give the desired results, he recommends tapering down and off Topamax rather than going to a higher dosage because the clinical trials showed no benefit to going higher.
Dr. Silberstein also offered some other helpful pieces of information:
- This medication needs to be taken in a split dose. That means the total daily dosage should be taken in two doses, 12 hours apart.
- If you experience the rather common side effect of tingling in your hands and/or feet, ask your doctor about a potassium supplement. This will often stop that side effect.
- Don’t expect a miracle weight loss with Topamax. It is not a primary function of Topamax, but a potential side effect. In the clinical trials, patients who experienced the weight loss side effect lost an average of 3.8% of their starting body weight. This is usually a temporary side effect, and the amount of weight lost is proportional to starting body weight.
- Unless there is an urgent need to discontinue Topamax quickly, it should not be abruptly discontinued. Doing so increases the risk of seizures even in people who have not experienced seizures before. Discontinuing Topamax should be accomplished by reversing the taper used to get to your current dosage under the supervision of your doctor
Remember – don’t make any changes to how you take your medication(s) without consulting your doctor first. If your doctor’s instructions for taking Topamax differ from Dr. Silberstein’s advice, discuss this information with your doctor. If you’re thinking about Topamax for Migraine prevention, this is good information to share with your doctor. Your doctor may appreciate your sharing it as Dr. Silberstein is very well known and respected in the field.
For many people, Topamax is a great preventive medication. It is, however, a very powerful medication. Please take care to take it correctly and safely. If you experience any side effects, especially visual side effects, report these to your physician as soon as possible.
Last updated May 25, 2007.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.