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Depakote Leaves Some Patients With Questions

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Chicago, ILFor some patients who took Depakote for migraines or seizures--specifically women who became pregnant while using the medication--their use of the drug has left them with many questions. Those questions include whether or not Depakote side effects affected their unborn babies, causing issues such as so-called Depakote birth defects. Other women who became pregnant but lost their child before birth wonder if the miscarriage was a result of the drug. These are the issues women of child-bearing age face when deciding whether or not to take a medication.

For women with epilepsy, taking Depakote was an absolute necessity. After all, there are serious risks to having seizures and Depakote provides important treatment. But some women were prescribed Depakote for migraines--painful, for sure, but some women say not worth the risks to their unborn babies. Furthermore, there may be other drugs available to treat seizures and migraines that do not carry the same risks as Depakote (known generically as valproic acid).

In June 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update about valproate and related products, warning that children exposed to the drugs prior to birth tended to have lower IQ and other cognitive test scores than children exposed to other anti-seizure medications prior to birth. Even before this time, valproate drugs carried a warning about the risk of serious neural tube defects and other birth defects associated with use of the drug while pregnant.

When the FDA issued its update, it noted that women who are pregnant and taking valproate should discuss their options with their healthcare professional. Pregnant women should not stop taking valproate unless doing so under the guidance of their doctor because there can be serious health problems associated with discontinuing medication. Furthermore, having untreated epilepsy can also be harmful to pregnant women and unborn babies.

Among the birth defects that the FDA has issued warnings or reminders about are neural tube defects (including spina bifida), craniofacial defects and cardiovascular defects. According to the FDA, the risk of a neural tube defect in the general population is 1 in 1,500. In babies born to mothers who used valproate during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, that risk increases to 1 in 20 babies.


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