[Leslie Carol Botha: Another drug gone bad. Is it any surprise that these drugs are causing birth defects? The anti epileptic drugs now causing birth defects contain the ingredient sodium valproate. The defects are varied but include spina bifida, cleft palate, and neuro-developmental disorders. Science is now showing that epileptic seizures can be managed and treated with neurofeedback therapy and nutritional supplements targeted to feed the brain.]
Why are doctors still not warning about the ‘new Thalidomide’? Mother tells how taking an anti-epileptic drug while pregnant devastated the heath of two of her children
May 19, 2012
by Jane Gregory
In 2008, Emma Murphy phoned her partner Joe at work. ‘I know what’s wrong with the children,’ she said.
For four years the couple had been perplexed by the health problems that affected their daughters Chloe and Lauren and their son Luke – and their GP had consistently dismissed their concerns.
It was only after watching a television programme about Fetal Anticonvulsant Syndrome (FACS) that Emma realised the children, who all had special needs, had been irreversibly damaged in the womb by the anti-epileptic drugs she had taken since she was 12.
After the scandal of the devastating birth defects caused by the morning-sickness drug Thalidomide in the Fifties, it seems inconceivable that the same situation could occur again. But for thousands of families in the UK, the word Epilim has the same sinister connotations.
It has been prescribed since 1978 and reports of the ingredient sodium valproate causing birth defects such as spina bifida go back almost as far. FACS is believed to have affected up to 20,000 babies – ten times more than Thalidomide.
FACS is thought to be caused in the first three months of pregnancy when an anti-epileptic drug crosses the placenta into the foetus. Effects depend on the dosage and the drug.
There are three FACS syndromes, each involving different anti-epileptic drugs and each with their own set of symptoms. In 2010, Epilim was taken by more than 21,500 women aged between 20 and 39 for epilepsy and other conditions. It is indicated in 80 per cent of cases of FACS.
Dr Peter Turnpenny, clinical geneticist at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, says: ‘Epilim may affect about 560 babies every year, and 10,000 to 20,000 since being introduced to the UK.’