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MPs to question government on failures over use of epilepsy drug in pregnancy

Senior health officials are to face questioning over why pregnant women are still being prescribed sodium valproate despite its known risks as a cause of birth defects or developmental delays.

Campaigners for families affected by the drug will also give evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee in a one-off session later this month. Alongside campaigners on sodium valproate, the Committee will also hear from campaigners from Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests and on behalf of “Sling the Mesh” campaign.

MPs will examine government progress on recommendations made in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety (IMMDS) Review, which specifically looked into sodium valproate, hormone pregnancy tests and vaginal mesh. An update by Ministers on progress to implement the government’s response was due this summer.  A Minister from the Department of Health and Social Care has been invited to appear before the Committee.

The IMMDS Review’s report called for better communication to inform women of the risks of sodium valproate in pregnancy. Despite an NHS ‘valproate pregnancy prevention programme’, 247 women since April 2018 were found to have been prescribed the drug in a month in which they were pregnant, 25 as recently as April to September last year.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt MP said:

“It is incredibly concerning to know that women of child-bearing age can still be prescribed the epilepsy drug sodium valproate despite its known risks as a cause of birth defects or developmental delays.

It has been two years since Baroness Cumberlege called for urgent action to prevent this happening. However, dozens of pregnant women were prescribed the drug last year while data published last month has shown that safety requirements were not being fully met.

We’re calling in a Minister and senior health officials as well as campaigners to address our concerns.”

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Source: UK Parliament, 2 September 2022



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