New toolkit supports better understanding of the risks of valproate and pregnancy

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The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today welcomed the launch of a new toolkit to ensure female patients are better informed about the risks of taking valproate medicines during pregnancy.

Valproate (Epilim, Depakote and other generic brands) is a treatment for epilepsy and bipolar disorder and is prescribed to thousands of women. It is associated with a risk of birth defects and developmental disorders in children born to women who take valproate during pregnancy.

MHRA strengthened warnings on the risks of valproate in pregnancy last year, as understanding of the extent of these risks had increased. Up to 4 in 10 babies are at risk of developmental disorders, and approximately 1 in 10 are at risk of birth defects, if valproate is taken during pregnancy. The new toolkit addresses concerns that the risks of valproate are not being adequately explained to female patients.

Developed in consultation with stakeholders including healthcare professional and patient groups, the toolkit includes a credit card sized patient card to be issued by pharmacists, booklets for healthcare professionals and for patients together with a checklist of important questions and discussion points to be kept with the patient’s file. Warnings will appear on the medicine’s packaging later this year.

The MHRA is asking GPs, pharmacists, neurologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare and mental health professionals to use the toolkit to help facilitate discussion of the risks with their patients.

More information is available at