Skip to content

Epilepsy Health Center

Antiseizure Drug Depakote Under Fire

Evidence Linking Depakote to Birth Defects Is Mounting
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News

Dec. 7, 2004 - The antiseizure drug Depakote has been linked to birth defects and lower IQs among children exposed to it in the womb, but millions of American women may be taking it without knowing the risks, a group of epilepsy experts warned Tuesday.

Officials with the Epilepsy Foundation and the American Epilepsy Society said as many as 15 million prescriptions for antiseizure drugs are written each year to women in their childbearing years. The drugs are commonly used to treat migraine headaches and bipolar disorder in addition to epilepsy.

Depakote is one of the most widely prescribed antiseizure drugs. In one ongoing study, one in four children born to mothers who took the drug during pregnancy experienced serious adverse events including birth defects and developmental delays. That compared to an adverse event rate of around 10% in children exposed in the womb to the antiseizure drug Tegretol and a 1% adverse event rate among children exposed to the drug Lamictal.

"While our study is not definitive, it certainly raises serious concerns," principal investigator Kimford J. Meador, MD, said at a news conference on Tuesday. The briefing was held at the American Epilepsy Society's annual meeting in New Orleans.

Meador said six other studies and national registries of antiseizure drug users found that the highest rate of birth defects occurred among children born to Depakote users. He added that the clinical evidence is strong enough to argue against the drug's use as an initial treatment for women who might become pregnant.

"That is not to say that [Depakote] shouldn't be used by these women at all," he said, adding that the drug may be the only option for some women since it is often prescribed for the most hard-to-control seizures.

Getting the Answers

In addition to Depakote, there are increasing concerns about the safety of the barbiturate phenobarbital, which is also used to control seizures. The panel of experts said these two drugs are the most "worrisome" of the large group of medications used in the treatment of epilepsy, but they added that the safety of most other drugs is not known.

Today on WebMD

human head and brain waves
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Grand mal seizure
How is each one different?
 
marijuana plant
CBD, a plant chemical, may cut down seizures.
prescription bottle
Which medication is right for you?
 
Seizures Driving
Article
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Article
 
Graces Magic Diet
Article
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
Article
 
first aid kit
Article
Caring Child Epilepsy
Article
 
Making Home Safe
Article
epilepsy monitoring
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections