Epilepsy Ireland & OACS Ireland will be meeting with the Minister for Health regarding the proposed Terms of Reference into the historical licensing and prescribing of Sodium Valproate.
The drug can cause a range of disabilities in the child if prescribed to a woman during pregnancy. However, it was not until 2018 that real measures were taken to warn women with epilepsy about the potential impacts of the drug – this is despite evidence growing over many decades that the drug could have this teratogenic impact.
We and our colleagues in OACS Ireland have been engaging with the Department of Health for the past 12 months, aiming to achieve a Terms of Reference that will get to heart of why and how this was allowed to happen to approximately 1,250 families in Ireland; families who are now caring for children with a range of severe and life-limiting disabilities caused by exposure to Sodium Valproate. Families want to know how this was allowed to continue for decades. We want an inquiry that will deliver the answers that families deserve; and indeed, one which will act as a vehicle to ensure no other woman or family is affected in the same way in the future.
The pace at which this process is moving is growing increasingly frustrating and is placing further strain on already vulnerable families. We have acted in good faith in our engagement with the Department but have yet to be presented with a Terms of Reference that will be capable of providing answers to the many questions families have.
We want this inquiry to happen, but we have made it clear to the Department that we will not facilitate a tick-box exercise that does not deliver on what our families need – answers. The ball is in the Department’s court in ensuring this inquiry happens and is fit for purpose.
We hope the Minister’s involvement in this meeting at the end of the month will help achieve progress on the current impasse.
We will share further updates as soon as possible following our meeting on our website and social media channels.
For further information on our ongoing campaign surrounding Sodium Valproate, visit the ‘Advocacy’ section of our website.
Further information on the preventative measures regarding the prescribing of Sodium Valproate to women of childbearing age can be found in the ‘Valproate’ section of our website.
**Women and girls should not stop taking valproate without first discussing it with their doctor. **