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Exposure to Epilepsy Drug During Pregnancy Can Increase Risk of Mental Defects in Newborns

Women with epilepsy who took the seizure drug valporate, which is marketed by Abbott Laboratories under the brand name Depakote, while pregnant increased their risk of having an infant with mental defects, according to a study presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston, the New York Times reports.

Kimford Meador, professor of neurology at the University of Florida, and colleagues examined 185 infants at age two using standard IQ measures. The mothers of the children had taken either Depakote, GlaxoSmithKline's Lamictal, Novartis' Tegretorl or Parke-Davis' Dilanten.

The average IQ of the children whose mothers had taken Depakote was 81, compared with an average of 96 for children in the Tegretol group, 94 for the Lamictal group and 95 for the Dilantin group. After adjusting for the mothers' IQ scores, the researchers found that the two-year-old children who had been exposed to Depakote scored seven to eight points lower on IQ tests than children of mothers who had taken other seizure medications.

A score of 100 on the IQ test is average and below 70 is considered mentally retarded, according to researchers. Twenty-four percent of children whose mothers took Depakote had IQs below 70, compared with 13% for Tegretol, 11% for Lamictal and 12% for Dilantin. According to researchers, about 2% of all children have IQs below 70. According to the Los Angeles Times, Depakote also is used to treat migraines and some psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder.

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