The Use of Sodium Valproate in Pregnancy

 

Bernadette McGhie - Enable Law*Updated 21/02/2018* Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has today announced a review into the way the authorities responded to three major medical problems: sodium valproate, vaginal mesh repair and the pregnancy test Primodos, which has been alleged to cause birth defects and miscarriages.

Sources like the BBC are reporting today that the European Medicines Agency is to consider whether there are sufficient warnings about the risks associated with women taking the drug Sodium Valproate in pregnancy.

What is Sodium Valproate?

Sodium Valproate is an important drug particularly as treatment for epilepsy, a condition which itself can cause problems for women and unborn babies. It is also used as a treatment for bipolar disorder and migraines.

Why are medics worried about Sodium Valproate?

High doses of Sodium Valproate can damage unborn babies causing abnormalities such as foetal valproate syndrome or FVS.  Babies affected can suffer from a range of problems including cognitive difficulties, learning disabilities and autism as well as some physical abnormalities.  This is not new information.  The dangerous effects of this drug in pregnancy have been known for some time but many doctors prescribing the drug seem to be unaware or have not been passing this information on to women to enable them to make informed choices about their medication.

If I am pregnant and have epilepsy, is there an alternative?

In many cases there are alternative drug treatments that would be less dangerous for the unborn baby but which will still provide effective treatment of the epilepsy.

It is not necessarily the drug itself which is of concern but the manner in which it is being prescribed to these vulnerable women.

I currently act for a number of families affected by Sodium Valproate prescription.  The effects of the drug are permanent for the children and the impact on the family can be far reaching.   Women should be given appropriate information and an opportunity to trial different medication before planning their family. If you have any concerns about taking the drug you should discuss this with your neurologist first before altering or stopping taking the drug.

Bernadette McGhie is a Clinical Negligence solicitor and AvMA Clinical Negligence panel member at Enable Law in Exeter.  She is currently acting for several children who have been damaged as a consequence of the use of Sodium Valproate in pregnancy.  Should you wish to discuss the issue with Bernadette please contact her on 03303 116759 or bernadette.mcghie@enablelaw.com.