Epilim: harms more children than Thalidomide

26 Feb

From the Daily Mail:

An epilepsy drug taken by thousands of women has been linked to learning disabilities in children.

20130226-223635.jpgResearchers say as many as one in three children born to mothers taking Epilim have developed autism or behavioural problems.

They believe up to 17,500 children in Britain have been affected since 1973, when it was launched.

Families campaigning for the manufacturer Sanofi to withdraw the drug are to meet Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham this week to enlist his support.

Around 21,500 women of childbearing age take Epilim in the UK every year to control or prevent seizures. It is one of the registered trade names for sodium valproate, which affects electrical activity in the brain.

But doctors have known for some time that the drug may cause developmental problems or deformities in babies.

This was reported a few weeks ago. It was followed up with this article today, detailing the full extension of the problem, and the number of children born with special needs, many severe.

campaigners and researchers say that of the 48,000 children born to mothers in the UK who have taken the drug since it was introduced in 1973, 40 per cent — a massive 19,200 — have developed physical or mental problems. Some suffer both. They claim that up to 800 new babies are affected every year and will need a lifetime of care at a cost of hundreds of millions to the state.

Their allegations chime with a groundbreaking new report from Liverpool University, which monitored the development over six years of 243 babies born to mothers with epilepsy between 2000 and 2004. Published in the respected Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, it says children exposed to Epilim are six times more likely to have a neurodevelopment disorder than pregnant mothers who took other types of anti-seizure drugs or none at all.

The researchers concluded that one in three of the children born to mothers taking Epilim has learning difficulties, low IQ and types of autism. ‘It is a huge medical dilemma,’ said Professor Gus Baker, an eminent neuropsychologist who conducted the research.

It also has huge social implications, says Dr Peter Turnpenny, a consultant geneticist at the Royal Exeter and Devon Hospital who has advised mothers with children damaged by Epilim.

‘It is really tough on the families who devote their whole lives to these children, some of whom never really grow up.

I am astounded how long this has been a problem, how little the press has published about it.

The doctors are still giving it to pregnant mothers! What!?!?!

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