Nav: Home

Link found between epilepsy drugs and birth defects

November 29, 2016

A joint study conducted by researchers from the universities of Liverpool and Manchester has found a link between birth defects and certain types of epilepsy medication.

For most women who have epilepsy, continuing their medication during pregnancy is important for their health. Over the last 25 years, research has shown that children exposed to these medications in the womb can be at a higher risk of having a malformation or birth defect.

The study, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, aimed to understand whether pregnant women exposed to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) during pregnancy were at higher risk of having a child with a malformation.

Minimising fetal risk

The majority of women with epilepsy will be required to continue antiepileptic drug treatment during a pregnancy.

Previous studies have demonstrated a significant increase in risk of having a child with a significant birth defect in the mother was taking certain antiepileptic drugs and therefore treatment decisions should be made carefully and collaboratively and aim to find a balance between maximising maternal health whilst minimising fetal risk.

As part of this systematic review 50 published studies were analysed and it was found that exposure in the womb to the AED sodium valproate was associated with a 10% chance of the child having a significant birth defect and that this rose as the dose of the drug increased.

Skeletal and limb defects

The types of birth defect that were increased were skeletal and limb defects, cardiac defects, craniofacial defects and neural tube defects.

Children exposed to carbamazepine, topiramate or phenytoin were at an increased risk of having a significant birth defect but the exact types of defects were not clear and children exposed to phenobarbital were found to be at an increased risk of cardiac defects.

The review also found that children exposed to lamotrigine or levetiracetam were not found to be at an increased risk of significant birth defects in comparison to control children and had lower risks when directly compared to the children exposed to carbamazepine, phenytoin or topiramate.

Informing complex discussions

Professor of Neurology Tony Marson from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Translational Medicine, said: "This is a really important review that informs complex discussions during consultations about epilepsy treatment choices for women of childbearing potential, who represent around a third of people with epilepsy worldwide.

"Based on current evidence, levetiracetam and lamotrigine appear to be the AEDs associated with the lowest level of risk, but more data are needed, particularly concerning individual types of malformation."
-end-
The full study, entitled 'Monotherapy treatment of epilepsy in pregnancy: congenital malformation outcomes in the child (Review)', can be found here http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD010236.pub2/abstract;jsessionid=2A623A1C7E1031224AB2ECCC33E5461D.f01t04?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+unavailable+on+Saturday+26th+November+2016+from+07%3A00-11%3A00+GMT+%2F+02%3A00-06%3A00+EST+%2F+15%3A00-19%3A00+SGT+for+essential+maintenance.++Apologies+for+the+inconvenience.

University of Liverpool

Related Epilepsy Articles:

Good news for kids with epilepsy
There's good news for kids with epilepsy. While several new drugs have come out in the last several years for adults with epilepsy, making those drugs available for children and teenagers has been delayed due to the challenges of testing new drugs on children.
People with epilepsy: Tell us about rare risk of death
People with epilepsy want their health care providers to tell them about a rare risk of death associated with the disorder, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 22 to 28, 2017.
New epilepsy gene network identified by scientists
Scientists have discovered a gene network in the brain associated with epilepsy.
Epilepsy -- why do seizures sometimes continue after surgery?
New research from the University of Liverpool, published in the journal Brain, has highlighted the potential reasons why many patients with severe epilepsy still continue to experience seizures even after surgery.
Redox biomarker could predict progression of epilepsy
Approximately 2.9 million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy, according to the CDC.
Many Malaysian children with epilepsy are vitamin D deficient
Long-term use of antiepileptic drugs is a significant risk factor for vitamin D deficiency in children with epilepsy.
Changes in heart activity may signal epilepsy
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have found that the parasympathetic nervous system modulates breathing and slows the heart rate of sleeping children with epilepsy substantially more than in healthy children.
Few answers in understanding death from epilepsy
To increase understanding of mortality in epilepsy, including SUDEP, Partners Against Mortality in Epilepsy (PAME) unites physicians, scientists, health care professionals, people with epilepsy, caregivers and bereaved family members for a unique conference that facilitates collaboration and spurs action.
New insights into epilepsy drug Retigabine
A study published ahead of print in the Journal of General Physiology has revealed new insights into Retigabine, a known pharmacological treatment for epilepsy.
Are women with epilepsy using effective contraception?
In the largest study of contraceptive practices of women with epilepsy, 30 percent did not use highly effective contraception despite being at higher risk of having children with fetal malformations due to the anti-epilepsy medications they take.

Related Epilepsy Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...