20,000 children harmed by Sodium Valproate taken during pregnancy

By Gillian Crotty

It has been estimated that 20,000 children have been harmed as a result of their mothers taking the epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate during their pregnancy, since it was first prescribed in the 1970s.

Many of the mothers advised that they were not made aware of the potential harm that the drug can have to their child if taken during pregnancy, and a new survey has revealed that 70 per cent of women and girls with epilepsy have not received the new safety warnings about taking Sodium Valproate during pregnancy that were issued in February 2016. The drug, known as Epilim, is said to carry a 10 per cent risk of physical abnormalities in unborn babies, and a 40 per cent risk of the babies developing autism, low IQ and learning disabilities.

The survey was commissioned jointly by the Epilepsy Society, Epilepsy Action and Young Epilepsy. Of the 475 women who were currently taking Epilim, only 32 per cent had received the newest warnings about the risk of taking it during pregnancy.

The Epilepsy Society has called for changes to how GPs issue repeat prescriptions to women for more than 12 months, and are proposing that there should be a mandatory face-to-face consultation. They are also asking for the risks of sodium valproate in pregnancy to be routinely discussed at family planning clinics.

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