Member State representatives agree new restrictions and pregnancy prevention programme

The CMDh has endorsed new measures to avoid exposure of babies to valproate medicines in the womb, because exposed babies are at high risk of malformations and developmental problems.

Valproate-containing medicines have been approved nationally in the EU to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder and in some countries for prevention of migraine. The new measures include a ban on the use of such medicines for migraine or bipolar disorder during pregnancy, and a ban on treating epilepsy during pregnancy unless there is no other effective treatment available.

Further, the medicines must not be used in any woman or girl able to have children unless the conditions of a new pregnancy prevention programme are met. The programme is designed to ensure that patients are made fully aware of the risks and the need to avoid becoming pregnant.

A visual warning of the pregnancy risks (in the form of boxed text with other possible elements such as a warning symbol) must also be placed on the packaging of the medicines and warnings be included on patient cards attached to the box and supplied with the medicine each time it is dispensed.

The CMDh agreed with EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), which carried out a review and recommended the new measures, that despite previous recommendations aimed at better informing patients of the risks with these medicines, women were still not always receiving the right information in a timely manner. The new measures endorsed by CMDh therefore strengthen previous restrictions on valproate use and requirements to inform women of the risk.

Companies marketing these medicines are also required to carry out additional studies on the nature and extent of the risks and to monitor valproate use and the long-term effects from affected pregnancies.

Because the CMDh position was agreed by majority vote it will now be sent to the European Commission, which will take a final legally binding decision valid across the EU.

Posted on the EMA website on 23 March 2018