Pregnancy: Sodium Valproate

Department of Health written question – answered on 7th November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Ford Baroness Ford Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether UK guidance on the use of valproate-based medicines during pregnancy has been reviewed in the light of recent findings on the intergenerational effects of that drug.

Photo of Baroness Ford Baroness Ford Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to offer compensation to women and children who have been affected by the use of valproate-based medicines during pregnancy.

Photo of Baroness Ford Baroness Ford Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support they will put in place for children born with birth defects resulting from the use of valproate-based medicines by their mothers during pregnancy.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Valproate is an effective treatment for epilepsy and bipolar disorder that should only be used in girls and women of childbearing potential if other treatments are ineffective or not tolerated because of the risks in pregnancy. For some women there may be no other treatment option. Due to ongoing concerns about women’s awareness of the risks, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has worked with professional bodies, voluntary organisations and patient groups to develop a set of materials to aid communication between health professionals and women and girls. The adequacy of measures taken to date is being evaluated in a Europe-wide review that started in March 2017. An expert working group of the Commission on Human Medicines has been convened to inform the United Kingdom position during the ongoing European Union review and will consider all relevant data on intergenerational effects.

The Government has great sympathy for those families who have been affected by the use of valproate in pregnancy. However, there is currently no proposal to offer compensation for those affected by the use of valproate during pregnancy in the UK. For any child born with a disability, clinical commissioning groups and local authorities, as commissioners of health and social care, must secure services to meet that child’s needs.

Where a child has a very complex health need, they may need additional health support to that which is routinely available from general practitioner practices, hospitals or in the community, called continuing care. Health, social care and education should work together to meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs.

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