New restrictions on use; pregnancy prevention programme to be put in place
The European Medicines Agency’s experts in medicines safety, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) are recommending new measures to avoid exposure of babies to valproate medicines in the womb. Babies exposed are at risk of malformations and developmental problems.
|What are the main measures recommended by the PRAC?|
|What are the main points of the new valproate pregnancy prevention programme?|
Medicines containing valproate have been approved nationally in the EU to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder and in some countries for prevention of migraine. They are known to pose a considerable risk of malformations and developmental problems in babies who are exposed to valproate in the womb. An earlier review had recommended measures aimed at better informing women about these risks in order to reduce use of the medicine during pregnancy, and not starting treatment unless other options were ineffective or could not be used because of side effects. The current review was launched because of concerns that these measures had not been sufficiently effective.
The PRAC examined the available evidence and consulted widely with healthcare professionals and with patients, including women and their children who have been affected by valproate use during pregnancy, through written submissions, expert meetings, meetings with stakeholders including healthcare professionals, patients organisations, patients and their families, and via a public hearing. The PRAC noted that women were still not always receiving the right information in a timely manner and that further measures were needed to help avoid use during pregnancy. However, it was also clear that for some women, such as those with particular forms of epilepsy, valproate is the only appropriate treatment and might be life-saving.
The PRAC therefore considered that the way the products are used should be changed. It recommended strengthening restrictions on their use and introducing new measures to require appropriate counselling and information for affected women.
The PRAC also recommended that the companies marketing these medicines carry out additional studies to further characterise the nature and extent of the risks posed by valproate and to monitor ongoing valproate use and the long-term effects from affected pregnancies.
Because valproate medicines are all licensed at national level, the PRACrecommendations will now be sent to Co-ordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human (CMDh), which will adopt a position.
In the meantime, women who have any concerns should consult their doctor. Women and girls who have been prescribed valproate should not stop taking their medicines without consulting their doctor as doing so could result in harm to themselves or to an unborn child.