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Sodium Valproate - the New Thalidomide?

The epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate has long been known to cause birth defects, but in a 2017 survey it was discovered that 1 in 5 of women taking it were completely unaware of the possibility that it might cause harm to unborn babies during pregnancy.

The risks are significant. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently advised health care professionals there was a 30% to 40% risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, and a 10% risk of physical birth abnormalities when prescribing Sodium Valproate to pregnant women.

The French drug agency MSNA estimated that up to 30,000 children in France over the past 50 years had development disorders as the result of their mothers taking Valproate during pregnancy, while as many as 4,000 have physical malformations as a result.

Sodium Valproate and its derivatives (including Epilim and Depakote) have been in use since the 1960s, and until very recently continued to be prescribed to pregnant women despite the risks of malformations having been known since the 1980s, and the risks of developmental problems since 2000.

The situation with Sodium Valproate echoes that of Thalidomide, which also continued to be prescribed to pregnant women despite mounting evidence it caused significant malformations in unborn children. Following a lengthy battle by the victims of Thalidomide, in 1973 a settlement was eventually reached with the drug company responsible for its production and a trust fund set up to support the children who had been harmed by Thalidomide for the rest of their lives.

The MHRA changed the licence for Sodium Valproate in April 2018 to prevent prescription to women of child-bearing age, but for many this change is sadly too late as the damage has already been done.

If you or someone in your family has been adversely affected following the prescription of Sodium Valproate or one of its derivatives during pregnancy, and were not advised of the risks involved, we would be happy to talk to you about representation and a potential claim for compensation.

To discuss your circumstances on a confidential and free no obligation basis please speak to one of our team of specialist solicitors. We can be contacted by calling 01603 620508

This article was produced on the 10th March 2021 by our Personal Injury & Group Actions team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.