Epilepsy drug ‘doubles children’s risk of autism’ if mother takes it while pregnant

A drug used to prevent epileptic seizures and migraines has been found to double the chance of a child developing autism if its mother takes it while pregnant.  A stock photo is used above

Epilepsy drug ‘doubles children’s risk of autism’ if mother takes it while pregnant

A drug used to prevent epileptic seizures and migraines has been found to double the chance of a child developing autism if its mother takes it while pregnant.

An urgent review of topiramate, known under the brand name Topamax, which has been prescribed for decades, has been launched.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched a safety review to assess the “benefits and risks” of the drug, which is likely to increase the chances of other intellectual disabilities as well as birth defects.

A drug used to prevent epileptic seizures and migraines has been found to double the chance of a child developing autism if its mother takes it while pregnant. A stock photo is used above

It follows warnings about another epilepsy drug, sodium valproate, marketed as Epilim, which has been linked to higher than normal rates of the same conditions.

Seven years ago, the MHRA ordered that women of childbearing age be warned about the risks of sodium valproate. However, pregnant women were still prescribed it earlier this year. Experts believe 20,000 babies have been harmed as a result.

The MHRA launched its investigation late last month, after Scandinavian scientists carried out an observational study looking at rates of autism and intellectual disability in children whose mothers took topiramate while pregnant.

They found that about three percent of these children had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), double the rate of 1.5 percent among those not exposed to the drug.

An urgent review of topiramate, known under the brand name Topamax, which has been prescribed for decades, has been launched.  A stock photo is used above

An urgent review of topiramate, known under the brand name Topamax, which has been prescribed for decades, has been launched. A stock photo is used above

About 3.5% of children whose mothers took it while pregnant were diagnosed with an intellectual disability, about four times higher than the 0.8% rate among those not exposed. The results were derived from an analysis of patient records of 4.5 million children in five Nordic countries, of whom nearly 25,000 had been exposed to topiramate in utero.

Writing in the Journal Of The American Medical Association Neurology, the scientists cautioned: “Our results do not suggest that topiramate is a safe alternative to sodium valproate (Epilim).’

Drug company Janssen, which makes topiramate/Topamax, said packages already contained a warning that it “should not be used during pregnancy unless the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk.”

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