Pregnancy Use of Valproate Linked to Autism in Children

New research suggests that children of women who are given the epilepsy drug valproate during pregnancy could face an increased risk of autism.

Valproate is sold as a syrup under the brand name Depakene and as an intravenous injection under the brand name Depacon.

The epilepsy drug is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, generating sales of about $1.5 billion worldwide in 2007.
The current print issue of the medical journal Neurology, which was published on December 2, 2008, contains a study that raises concerns about a potential risk that valproate side effects may increase the risk of autism for children when the drug is taken during pregnancy.

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Researchers from the Liverpool and Manchester Neurodevelopment Group followed 632 children between 2000 and 2006, tracking from their mother’s pregnancy through childhood. Nearly half the children were exposed to various epilepsy drugs, with 76 children exposed to valproate, 76 to carbamazepine, 44 to lamotrigine and 65 to other epilepsy drugs.

The study found that 9 of the 632 children have been diagnosed with autism or shown one or more autistic symptoms. Of the children diagnosed with autism, the mothers of 7 took an epilepsy drug during pregnancy, and five of those were exposed to valproate.

Children exposed to sodium valproate were found to be seven times more likely to later develop autism than those who were not exposed to any epilepsy drug, and this increased risk was not present with other epilepsy drugs used in the study.
Researchers suggested that additional studies are needed to confirm these early findings, but encouraged women who take valproate to talk to their doctors about the potential risk of taking the drug during pregnancy.

The use of valproate during pregnancy has previously been linked to other problems in children, such as a potential risk of birth defects like spina bifida and heart defects.


  • karenNovember 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    My 3 son's has featal valporate sydrome ......... So they should have warned the mother's who have eplipies year's ago ... ah but GET this only 50% of the doctor belived in it ........ Ain't life a bitch !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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