Depakote (generic: valproic acid), a widely used prescription drug that has been used to treat epilepsy, migraines and bipolar disorder, may cause birth defects, including autism. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug in 1978 to treat certain types of epilepsy. As early as the 1980s, it was linked to serious side effects after use during pregnancy, yet pregnant women were not made aware of the risks.
Depakote and Birth Defects
Most research on Depakote has focused on physical congenital birth defects and malformations from being exposed to the drug during pregnancy. This recent study looked at the number of children born to women who took Depakote during pregnancy who were later diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. Researchers presented their findings early this month at an American Epilepsy Society meeting in Baltimore.
Autism Risk Discovered
The Danish researchers collected data on nearly 656,000 children born in Denmark between 1996 and 2006 and found that 508 had been born to mothers who probably took Depakote during pregnancy. The study showed that women who took the drug had children born with autism at a rate 2.6 times higher than the number of children born to mothers who did not take the drug. They also found that the mothers who had taken the drug were 5 times more likely to have children with early-onset autism as compared to those who did not take Depakote during their pregnancy.
In 2006, the FDA added a “black box” warning about the possible risk of Depakote birth defects after a study found that 20 percent of pregnant mothers who gave birth while on Depakote had a child with malformations or a birth defect. The black box is the highest warning the FDA can require for a drug and is only authorized for the most severe cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to an L.A. times article, this rate is 20 times that of the 1980s. The topic of rising rates of autism is highly debated; one side argues that frequency is indeed increasing due to a variety of environmental factors and the other side says that more cases are discovered and properly diagnosed than in the past. Regardless of which is correct, more and more possible causes are being linked to autism including traffic fumes. With the new research linking Depakote to autism, more mothers will be able to take action to avoid giving birth to a baby whose autism was sparked by Depakote exposure. For those whose children have already suffered injury from the anti-epilepsy drug, compensation may be available to cover the financial and emotional burdens of autism.
If you took Depakote during pregnancy and your child developed any kind of birth defect, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation. We will listen to your story and help you determine the best course of action for your case.