According to American scientists, women who took an epilepsy drug during their pregnancy are at greater risk of having children with lower IQ.
In question is the drug valproate (already at the center of a British court action after claims that it has damaged children). Valproate seems to double the chance that the woman's child will be born with mental retardation.
Around 140 British families claim that their children are suffering from fetal anti-convulsant syndrome because their mothers took valproate during pregnancy. The syndrome includes a range of neural, behavioral and physical disorders such as cleft palate and spina bifida, learning difficulties, behavioral problems and abnormalities in movement, speech, vision and hearing.
Many mothers were prescribed the brand Epilim, made by Sanofi-Synthelabo, though the drug is also available in generic forms. As of now, Sanofi is the only company involved in the court action, with a trial date set for October 2008.
Lead researcher Kimford Meador, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, looked at IQ results of 187 children born to mothers who had taken the epilepsy drugs carbamazepine, lamotrigine, phenytoin, or valproate during pregnancy.
The results, presented yesterday at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Boston, showed that 24 percent of the children of mothers who took valproate had an IQ low enough to be defined as mentally retarded. This was against 12 percent for carbamazepine, 9 percent for lamotrigine, and 12 percent for phenytoin.
The results are published in the journal Neurology.
Children whose mothers took carbamazepine scored an average of 93 points on the IQ tests, those on phenytoin 93, lamotrigine 96, and 84 for valproate.
Says Meador: "Our findings are consistent with other studies, which have shown valproate poses an increased risk for fetal death and birth defect.
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