Generic Name: ACTH

Used to Treat: epilepsy

Seizure Type: Infantile spasms

Forms of the medicine:

Used temporarily for periods ranging from 2-12 weeks.

General Info:
What is ACTH?
ACTH is an abbreviation for adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone is secreted from the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. It is used to treat spasm and seizure activity in infants and children. Its brand name includes HP Acthar Gel. As its name indicates, HP Acthar Gel is semi-gelatinous (16% gelatin) designed to provide a prolonged release of the medication.

How do I take ACTH?
ACTH is injected intramuscularly, meaning directly into the muscle exhibiting spasms. It may be administered by parents / caregivers under specific instructions given by the healthcare provider. A prescription is required to obtain this medication as well as the necessary equipment including syringes and needles. Unlike other medications, ACTH is used only temporarily for periods ranging from 2 – 12 weeks depending upon the seizure response.

During treatment, your child must not receive vaccinations and must avoid contact with those who have recently received a polio vaccine as there is a high risk of infection. It is important to avoid exposure to varicella (chicken pox) and measles. If exposed, contact your treating physician. If surgery is required during the period of ACTH therapy or within the first 12 months after completing treatment, be sure to let your physician (surgeon) know.

What if I miss a dose?
Administer the missed dose as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your child’s regular dosing schedule. Do not administer an extra dose, unless prescribed by your doctor.

What if I experience side-effects?
Although not everyone will experience side effects, various side effects may occur in taking this medication. Most side effects are not serious and will disappear after the treatment is complete. Call your doctor if you have any questions concerning your child’s possible side effects. However, do not stop administering the medication without advice from your doctor. They will discuss and recommend possible options. At times it is necessary to continue administering the medication despite these side effects.

Your child may experience serious side effects. As with all other medications, it is important to fully understand the possible serious side effects before undertaking this treatment. For a complete list, consult your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. More detailed sources of information on side effects include the drug's prescribing information sheet, the Physician's Desk Reference, or pharmaceutical company which produces the drug. Contact your doctor immediately should your child exhibit signs or symptoms outside of those commonly listed.

Contact your physician immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Calcification of the kidneys and /or pancreas
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Increased blood glucose levels
  • Diabetes
  • Acute or chronic bacterial or fungal infections
  • Renal failure due to fluid retention

Possible Contraindications to the Use of ACTH
If you have the following conditions, consult your doctor if you are considering ACTH treatment as it may not be an appropriate course of treatment for your condition.

  • Diabetes
  • Acute or chronic bacterial or fungal infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Renal failure with fluid retention

Keep this medication in its original container, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store the prescription at room temperature, away from excess heat and moisture (i.e. not the bathroom). Do not freeze the liquid. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

Recommendation for women
ACTH is usually administered to children and infants. Consult your doctor if you are considering taking this medication as it may or may not be an appropriate course of treatment for your condition.

Other helpful information
Notify your doctor of all medications that your child is currently taking, if any, including other seizure medications. There are possible drug interactions that include some heart medicines, acetazolamide, amphotericin B, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen), aspirin, barbiturate preparations, growth hormone, phenytoin (Dilantin), potassium salts, and rifampin (anti tuberculosis medication)

Side Effects

Insomnia, Weight gain, Irritability, Fluid retention, Increased appetite