Concerns around the use of valproate during pregnancy have been highlighted for some time now, but recent research shows that every baby exposed to the epilepsy drug is at some degree of risk. The scale of the issue, and the harm caused, is bigger than that caused by thalidomide.
Yes, you read that right. During a parliamentary debate in 2017, MPs claimed that since the 1970s an estimated 20,000 babies could have been born in the UK with severe congenital defects and developmental problems as a result of their mothers taking valproate during pregnancy. In the case of thalidomide, the number of babies affected in the UK was around 2,000, according to the Thalidomide Society, partly due to the serious risks of harm being highlighted early and appropriate action being taken.
Yet women prescribed valproate are still unaware of the risks of taking it should they become pregnant. Efforts to raise awareness of the risks around valproate-containing medicines and pregnancy have just not been successful enough to date.
Read how the Community Pharmacy Safety Group has been tackling the situation on the Chemist and Druggist website