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Valproate: Life-saving, life-changing

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rhys ThomasORCiD


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© Royal College of Physicians 2018. All rights reserved. Antiepileptic medications, and valproate principally, are commonly prescribed teratogens. There is significant concern that we are not doing enough to educate clinicians and potential parents about the risks of valproate in pregnancy. There is clear advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the International League Against Epilepsy about the risks of valproate exposure in utero. Reviews and guidelines that are focused on fetal risk, however, fall short in being able to fully replicate the complexity of a real clinical decision. Valproate is certainly life-changing if your child is one of the 10% with a major malformation or 30-40% with a neurodevelopmental disorder, but valproate is also potentially life-saving in the context of ensuring the best possible seizure control for some mothers with epilepsy. There are significant knowledge gaps regarding the risks to mothers who elect to take another drug, or to mother and baby if she comes off medication entirely. We also should be doing more to reduce rates of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which is recognised as a key target when evaluating all maternal deaths.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thomas RH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Medicine, Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London

Year: 2018

Volume: 18

Pages: s1-s8

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Acceptance date: 13/02/2017

ISSN (print): 1470-2118

ISSN (electronic): 1473-4893

Publisher: Royal College of Physicians


DOI: 10.7861/clinmedicine.18-2-s1


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