12 Days Remaining

Friday 29th
posted by Will Stone in Britain

Mothers celebrate as epilepsy drug which harms foetuses given warnings

MOTHERS have praised prominent new warnings on epilepsy drugs that can harm unborn babies as potentially saving thousands of children from birth defects.

The campaigning mothers all have epilepsy and have children who suffer from birth defects after taking the anti-convulsant drug Epilim during pregnancy, without knowing the risks to their unborn babies.

Anti-convulsants like Epilim, manufactured by pharmaceutical company Sanofi, can cause developmental delay and behavioural difficulties when babies are exposed to the drug in the womb.

The official diagnosis of the disability is foetal anti-convulsant syndrome, which is said to harm 175 children every year.

However the Organisation for Anti-Convulsant Syndrome (OACS) campaign group founder Janet Williams argues the figure is much higher.

Ms Williams has led a lengthy three-year battle to get the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to ensure that prominent warnings, similar to cigarette packaging, are printed on all Epilim packaging.

She told the Star yesterday that she and other mothers in the campaign are “delighted” to finally see all their hard work pay off.

All packaging now states: “Warning for women and girls: This medicine can seriously harm an unborn baby.

“Always use effective contraception during treatment. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant or you become pregnant, talk to your doctor straight away.”

Ms Williams hopes that the warnings will help protect “many thousands” of mothers and their unborn children today and in the future.

However she says their battle is far from over, explaining that toolkits for GPs that give more detailed warnings have still not been properly rolled out.

Ms Williams says that while the delays in publishing the warnings were put down to fears they could discourage women from protecting themselves, she suspects that the prospect of losing profits was the real reason.

She praised MPs on the all-party parliamentary group for anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy for all their hard work in fighting for the change, singling out chair Teresa Pearce for particular thanks.

An MHRA spokesman said it is continuing to work with campaigning groups, professional bodies and health organisations to raise awareness of the new toolkit.