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To Demonise An Essential Epilepsy Drug Could Cost A Pregnant Women Her Life. We Must Find A Balance. There Are No Easy Answers.

We at MMT are shocked by the news in The Sunday Times this week that Epilim and other Sodium Valporate drugs are linked to brain damage in 17, 500 babies and we agree that pregnant women who suffer from epilepsy must be better advised about the risk of high doses of these drugs to their unborn babies, particularly during the first trimester.

Importantly however, mother's to be must understand the risks to themselves of intractable epilepsy should they reduce or stop taking their prescribed anti- convulsant medication. Last year MMT received a donation of £10,000 from the De Vere Academy in memory of Gemma Ray, aged just 17, who was expecting a baby. She was five months pregnant and died in her sleep, a seizure caused by her epilepsy. Her family neither knew that that there was risk of death in epilepsy (SUDEP) or that that risk was increased in pregnancy and that often an increase in anti - convulsant medication is recommended. Very sadly, both mother and baby were lost as a consequence. A fine line exists between protecting the life of the mother and the baby. There are no easy answers.

Of great concern, however, is the resultant campaign by families whose children have been damaged by Sodium Valporate to have Epilim withdrawn from the market by manufacturers, Sanofi and their attempt to enlist the support of Government in their campaign.  Epilim is used widely and often successfully in the treatment and management of epilepsy and many patients depend on it. Indeed, it is often the first line of treatment in children who have epilepsy because it is the least damaging to their cognitive development.

In terms of severe epilepsy syndromes like Dravet Syndrome, it is only recently that research has identified carefully prescribed drugs in combination (including Sodium Valporate) as an effective combination for the treatment and management of this profoundly damaging epilepsy syndrome. Without Epilim (brand name) or Sodium Valporate many of these children's seizures would spiral out of control and some would die. 

There is no doubt that an awareness campaign is appropriate for child bearing women who have epilepsy, in order to properly understand the risks to the unborn child and the threat to their own lives, if their epilepsy becomes intractable but we would strongly oppose any campaign to have Epilim or other Sodium Valporate drugs withdrawn from the market.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Health/article1206654.ece

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