Women tell doctors to warn patients of its pregnancy effects
MOTHERS who gave birth to disabled children after taking a controversial epilepsy medication met MPs yesterday in a bid to expose a “huge cover-up” around the drug.
Campaigning group Infact wants to force doctors to tell their patients about the high-risk that sodium valproate — better known by brand name Epilim — poses to foetuses.
Forty per cent of children born to mothers taking the drug have neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
And 11 per cent are born with major physical malformations such as spina bifida and heart and kidney problems.
Infact is also urging Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to launch an independent inquiry.
It has learnt that doctors were advised by the now defunct Committee on Safety of Medicines not to tell patients of the drug’s dangers when it was first issued for prescriptions in 1973.
This advice is no longer in force, although Infact alleges that most women prescribed the drug are still not being told of its risks.
Group co-founder Janet Williams told the Star: “So many kids have been harmed by this drug.
“We have got to make it mandatory for the doctors to tell ladies of the risks and give them that informed choice to make for themselves. At the moment, that is just not happening.”
Mother-of-two Catherine Cox, who provides educational support to children affected by foetal anticonvulsant syndrome (FACS), had a child with the condition while taking sodium valproate.
Her second child, born while she was taking a different anticonvulsant drug, does not have FACS.
“It’s been swept under the carpet all the way along,” said Ms Cox. “I asked very, very clear questions [before becoming pregnant] and was told that if my baby had cleft palate it would be unlucky, but they’d be able to sort it. And that was all I was told.”
Emma Murphy, who co-founded Infact with Ms Williams, has five children — all with FACS.
She warned that the drug was now being given out in high doses for conditions such as bipolar disorder.
“They know that it will harm the babies. Women should be told,” said Ms Murphy. “I went through five pregnancies and was told nothing.”
Labour MP Teresa Pearce agreed at the meeting to collate personal stories from victims of Epilim and send them to Mr Hunt in order to put “evidence-based pressure” on him to launch an inquiry.