Epilepsy drug that disabled 20,000 babies is still given to pregnant mothers

The anti-epileptic drug sodium valproate, available by prescription since the 1970s, has been identified as a cause of autism, learning disabilities and physical deformities

Losing hand contraceptive pill with colorful pill strips. Contraception reduces childbirth and pregnant concept.
Drugs are “still distributed to women in plain packs, with no information leaflets”

A worrying new investigation has found that a drug that has resulted in more than 20,000 British babies being born with severe disabilities is still being offered to pregnant mothers.

Sodium valproate, which is prescribed by doctors to treat epilepsy, has been found to have caused autism, learning disabilities and physical deformities.

But some doctors are still not properly warning expectant mothers of the risks — despite a stinging 2020 report.

The drug is manufactured by Sanofi and prescribed under the brand names Epilim, Epilim Chrono, Epilim Chronosphere, Episenta, and Epival.

It has been available by prescription since the 1970s and has resulted in thousands of children being born with disabilities.

Sodium valproate has caused autism, learning disabilities, and physical deformities


Alamy Stock Photo)

The drug acts as an anticonvulsant to calm or stabilize electrical activity in the brains of epilepsy patients to prevent seizures.

It has also been used to treat manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder.

But a probe through The Sunday Times revealed that sodium valproate was prescribed to 247 pregnant women between April 2018 and September last year.

They found that in some cases the drug is still being distributed in plain packages – with missing information leaflets or with stickers covering important warnings.

Sodium valproate is still being shipped out by pharmacists without patient information required by law, they found.

Four years ago, traumatized mum Victoria McMahon was awarded £150,000 after a family doctor failed to identify the risks, resulting in her losing her first baby.

The government is said to have refused to compensate those affected


(Getty Images)

She was not warned that her epilepsy medications pose a significant risk to unborn babies and can lead to the devastating condition of fetal valproate syndrome.

Ms McMahon, who has since had another child, says she will never forget being told the medication she had been on for months left her baby, named Jake, with a high likelihood of serious abnormalities.

She said after receiving the compensation in 2018: “For me it’s never been about money, it’s about justice. The GP could just get on with her life.

“None of this would have happened if she had done the right thing from the start.”

The epilepsy drug that disabled 20,000 babies is still being given to expectant mothers


Alamy Stock Photo)

Catherine McNamara told the Times her son was born with deformed hands and other disabilities.

She says she was prescribed the drug while she was pregnant in 2011.

Ms McNamara explained: “I went to the GP and said, ‘I have two children with pretty severe learning disabilities and autism, is there any chance it has to do with my pills?

“The GP said no, just keep taking the pills, you’ll be fine. My doctor said the same.”

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