12-02-2016 | New Toolkit for Women with Epilepsy on the Risks of Valproate

12 February 2016
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'12-02-2016 | New Toolkit for Women with Epilepsy on the Risks of Valproate' image

A new toolkit has been launched in the UK to help health professionals inform women with epilepsy of childbearing age about the risks of being on the drug valproate. Valproate is used in treatment of epilepsy but also in the treatment of bipolar disorder and widely prescribed. It has been linked to neural tube defects and developmental disorders in babies born to women who took it during their pregnancy.

Warnings in respect of the use of valproate have been strengthened at national and European level in recent times and it is important that women and girls receive appropriate information about any known risk. The new toolkit was produced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority in consultation with patient groups and professionals to deal with the concerns raised by statistics which show that as many as 40% of babies born to mothers on valproate are at risk of developmental disorders and around 10% are at risk of birth defects. The toolkit is designed to help health professionals explain the risks to women who might have concerns and it will help reduce the risks to babies born to mothers with epilepsy into the future.

The toolkit features resources for professionals such as pharmacists and health professionals to increase awareness among these groups and resources for women with epilepsy. A checklist of key questions is included which can be kept in the woman's file for discussion. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority in the UK is asking all relevant health professionals involved in the care of women with epilepsy to use this toolkit to promote discussion of these issues with them. 

It is important that women should not stop taking valproate without first discussing it with their doctor as there are risks attached to coming off medication unsupervised. The Toolkit recommends that girls and women with epilepsy who are of childbearing age would not be put on valproate unless no other option is effective or tolerated. In those cases where valproate is still the only option for the woman the toolkit recommends that appropriate advice about effective contraception should be made available. When women with epilepsy are well informed about the risks they are better empowered to make better choices in partnership with their healthcare providers.

Source: Gov.UK (Press Release) 

From: Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency First published:


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