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Warning: Epilepsy Drug Harms Babies' IQ

Thursday, October 01, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: side effects, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) Pregnant women who take a widely prescribed epilepsy drug give birth to children with lower average IQs, according to a study conducted by researchers from Emory University School of Medicine and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers conducted IQ tests on 258 children between the ages of two and three, all of whose mothers had been prescribed antiseizure medication from one of 25 epilepsy centers in the United States or United Kingdom between October 1999 and February 2004. A total of 53 children in the study had been born to mothers who had taken the best-selling drug valproate, marketed as Convulex, Depakene, Depakine, Epival or Stavzor.

Valproate is the second most popular antiseizure drug used to treat epilepsy. Prior research has linked its use by pregnant women to birth defects and slowed infant development.

Researchers found that the average IQ of children who had been exposed to valproate in utero was 92, significantly lower than the average of 100. In comparison, the average IQs of children prenatally exposed to the drugs carbamazepine, lamotrigine and phenytoin were all within two points of 100.

The researchers said that doctors should never prescribe valproate as a first choice to epileptic women of childbearing age.

"My thought is that if I make a mistake and the patient has a breakthrough seizure, I can change the medication and switch the patient to valproate," lead author Kimford J. Meador said. "If I put the patient on valproate as a first choice and the baby has cognitive impairment or a malformation, I can't repair that."

Epileptic women give birth to between 13,000 and 21,000 children each year.

Women currently taking valproate should not discontinue the drug without consulting a physician first, warned Eric Hargis of the Epilepsy Foundation.

Valproate is also used to treat bipolar disorder, depression, migraine and schizophrenia.

Sources for this story include: www.nytimes.com.

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