Taking Epilim for Epilepsy during Pregnancy raises risk of birth defects

Epilim, also known by its chemical name, sodium valproate, is a successful medicine for people who live with epilepsy. Now, organizations, societies, and charities that focus on the neurological disorder, such as Epilepsy Today, Epilepsy Society, and Epilepsy Research UK are trying to raise awareness of the risks of the drug to unborn babies if taken during pregnancy.   

The risks involved with epilepsy medicine

32,000 people in the UK are newly diagnosed with epilepsy each year; that’s around 87 people each day, according to Epilepsy Research UK. Sodium valproate (Epilim) is currently the third most prescribed epilepsy drug in Great Britain, as stated by Epilepsy Society.

Despite the fact that Epilim has successfully treated numerous patients, the anti-epileptic drug (AED) can increase the risk of birth defects, including cleft palate by up to 40%, which can cause newborns to experience adverse effects and neurodevelopmental disorders that can progress during growth.

Other problems to a foetus that can sometimes be caused by taking anti-epileptic drugs include minor and major congenital abnormalities, such as a hole in the heart, and spina bifida. The approximate risk of taking 1,000 mg of sodium valproate is 6 in 100, increasing to 10 in 100 if the daily dose is above 1,000 mg, according to new data released by Epilepsy Action.

Recent statistics produced by Epilepsy Action illustrate that approximately 35,000 women in the UK take sodium valproate to ease the effects of epilepsy, and around 375 of these women become pregnant per year. However, many of them are unaware of the risks and possible implications for pregnancy when taking an AED.

Cases that have been reported in the news

Over recent years, some devastating stories have been reported in the news that focuses on sodium valproate and the potentially harmful effects of the drug when taken during pregnancy. BBC One – Panorama run a documentary in 2013, ‘The Truth About Pills and Pregnancy’ – which exposes the link between popular prescription drugs like sodium valproate and birth defects, emphasising the importance of knowing whether to continue or to stop taking medication early in pregnancy.

Last year, research conducted by The Guardian stated that up to 2 in 5 deaths among mothers in the United Kingdom who die in pregnancy or not long afterwards could be prevented if provided with better care. In support of this, a spokeswoman for the NHS expressed that the healthcare system is committed to ensuring that expectant and new mums are provided with safer and more personalised care.

Information about sodium valproate

If you are pregnant, capable of becoming pregnant or considering starting a family, sodium valproate should only be prescribed to you if no other anti-epileptic drug suits you. If you are already taking the AED and you have become pregnant, you should seek advice from your consultant in regards to your medication and the risk of medicinal exposure to your unborn baby.  

Your doctor is obliged to uphold a ‘duty of care’ when it comes to providing you with necessary information in regards to your medication and should notify you of the risks posed by Epilim if you take it whilst pregnant. Failure to do so will result in negligent behaviour, which could lead to you claiming medical negligence compensation further down the line.

How Cute Injury can help

If you require professional legal advice on any worries you may have in relation to the information above please do not hesitate to contact us today to speak to one of our clinical negligence specialists. Cute Injury may be able to assist you with making a claim on a No Win No Fee basis.

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