The FDA is warning that the medicine Lamictal (lamotrigine) for seizures and bipolar disorder can cause a rare but very serious reaction that excessively activates the body’s infection-fighting immune system. This can cause severe inflammation throughout the body and lead to hospitalization and death, especially if the reaction is not diagnosed and treated quickly. As a result, the FDA is requiring a new warning about this risk be added to the prescribing information in the lamotrigine drug labels.
The immune system reaction, called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), causes an uncontrolled response by the immune system. HLH typically presents as a persistent fever, usually greater than 101°F, and it can lead to severe problems with blood cells and organs throughout the body such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs.
Patients or their caregivers should contact their health care professionals right away if they experience any symptom of HLH while taking lamotrigine. HLH can occur within days to weeks after starting treatment. A physical examination and specific laboratory blood tests and other evaluations are used to diagnose HLH. Signs and symptoms of HLH include but are not limited to: fever; enlarged liver (symptoms may include pain, tenderness, or unusual swelling over the liver area in the upper right belly); swollen lymph nodes; skin rashes; yellow skin or eyes; unusual bleeding; nervous system problems (including seizures, trouble walking, difficulty seeing, or other visual disturbances).