The importance of research and ERUK in understanding risks of valporate
Sodium valproate is an effective epileptic drug prescribed to patients to control seizures, as well as being prescribed for bipolar disorder and migraines. The drug is no longer prescribed to women of childbearing age unless they are on a Pregnancy Prevention Plan (PPP), due to the implementation of new guidelines based on recommendations from the European Medicines Agency.
Central to the new guidelines was research evidence funded by ERUK a decade ago. ERUK’s funded work was one of several gamechanging studies that led to the understanding that sodium valproate during pregnancy carries a 4 in 10 risk of developmental disorders and roughly a 1 in 10 risk of birth defects for the baby.
ERUK has also played an active role in the Valproate Stakeholders’ Network (VSN), since it formed in January 2016 to help raise awareness of the risks of valproate for women.
Why is the Cumberlege review important for the progress with sodium valproate?
Dr Rebecca Bromley has established herself as an expert in her field, enabling her to influence guidance on prescription medicine for women with epilepsy, after receiving early career support from ERUK.
Data shows that there has been a much-reduced use of valproate by women of childbearing age since 2010, although there is more still to be done. The focus of the Cumberlege review is how the NHS responds to concerns about the side effects of treatments but provides impetus for further reducing the harmful effects of valproate in pregnancy.
ERUK continues to support research on this important topic. ERUK is currently funding Dr Bromley’s ongoing Endeavour Project Grant addressing Neurodevelopment After Prenatal Exposure to Seizures (NAPES) Study, which you can read more about here.
You can read more about this in Dr Rebecca Bromley’s blogpost where she discusses the journey in recognising the risks associated with sodium valproate, and how patient campaigning and research brought about change.