Epilepsy drugs have long been linked to an increase risk of birth defects when ingested during the first trimester of pregnancy. Late last year a study revealed that Tegretol increases the risk of spina bifida, which causes severe brain injuries, learning disabilities and retardation. Another study found that Depakote was twice as likely to cause birth defects, including spina bifida and cleft palates.
Given the likelihood of these adverse events, treating a woman with epilepsy during pregnancy is a challenging task. It may take multiple medications to control seizures and uncontrolled epilepsy can also harm a fetus. Doctors walk a fine line between controlling seizures in pregnant women and reducing developmental problems. A new study of more than 800,000 births may provide some reassurance to doctors and their pregnant patients. In this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, Danish researchers reported that new epilepsy drugs do not increase the risk of birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Only about 3.2% of children exposed to the newer drugs, which included Lamictal, Trileptal, and Neurontin, were born with birth defects. This percentage is only slightly higher than the 2.4% birth defect risk for children born to women who did not take any anti-epileptic drugs.
Pregnant women still need to be cautious, because the results are limited to a single study and more research needs to be conducted to provide a complete assessment of the risks. Also, researchers did not reach any conclusions about Topomax, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warn may carry a 16 times higher risk of birth defects.
Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have helped many pregnant women whose children have suffered as a result of taking medications with dangerous side effects. We are committed to helping the victims of dangerous drugs receive the compensation that they deserve.