Depakote, a drug containing valporic acid , has been linked to an increased risk of spina bifida birth defects in pregnant women who are taking the drug. Depakote, and other drugs containing valporic acid, is commonly used as an anti-seizure drug for epileptic patients and is increasingly used to treat psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder.
Alarmingly, a study in June of 2009 revealed that babies born to women taking the epilepsy drug valporic acid, sold under the names Depacon, Depakene, Depakote, and Stavzor, were six times more likely to suffer spina bifida. Spina bifida is the most commonly occurring birth defect in the United States, affecting approximately 7 babies out of 10,000. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs in the early weeks of pregnancy–often before a women even knows she is pregnant–and results in the spine and back bones not closing completely. Although many people who are born with spina bifida go on to lead full leaves, the disorder causes lifelong disabilities such as inability to move the lower parts of the body, loss of bowel and bladder control, fluid build-up that puts pressure on the brain, learning disabilities, and latex allergies, among others.
In December of 2009, the Food and Drug Administration issued warning information to health care professionals and patients, highlighting the risks present for women taking Depakote and other labels containing valporic acid. In that information, the FDA advised women of childbearing potential to avoid taking these types of medications; and for those who do, it advised the use of effective birth control.
Although seizure treatment through the use of Depakote should not be ceased suddenly, women on the medication who are planning a pregnancy should discuss their options with a healthcare professional. In addition, women who are pregnant can protect against spina bifida by taking folic acid, throughout the pregnancy, as it assists the body in producing healthy cells.
Women who took Depakote during their pregnancy and have a child who suffers from spina bifida may have legal recourse and should speak to an attorney about their options.