New ban on epilepsy drug in pregnancy

An epilepsy drug that can damage unborn babies must no longer be prescribed to girls and women of childbearing age in the UK unless they sign a form to say that they understand the risks.

Drug regulator the MHRA says the new measures it’s introducing will keep future generations of children safe.

Those already on valproate medication should see their GP to have their treatment reviewed.

No woman or girl should stop taking it without medical advice though.

It is thought about 20,000 children in the UK have been left with disabilities caused by valproate since the drug was introduced in the 1970s.

Affected families have called for a public inquiry and compensation.

Epilepsy charities say one in five women on sodium valproate are unaware that taking it during pregnancy can harm the development and physical health of an unborn baby.

And more than one in four have not been given information about risks for their unborn child.

The MHRA has changed the licence for valproate, which means any doctor prescribing it will have to ensure female patients are put on a Pregnancy Prevention Programme, which means:

  • The patient can see her doctor every year to discuss the risks of this drug to an unborn baby
  • She signs an acknowledgement form at least every year
  • She is told about the importance of using contraception throughout treatment and having a pregnancy test if she thinks she could be pregnant

    If valproate is taken during pregnancy, up to four in 10 babies are at risk of developmental disorders, and approximately one in 10 are at risk of birth defects.

    Dr June Raine, from the MHRA, said: “Patient safety is our highest priority. We are committed to making sure women and girls are aware of the very real risks of taking valproate during pregnancy. However, we also know it is vitally important women don’t stop taking valproate without first discussing it with their doctor.

    “I would like to particularly thank the families involved in the Valproate Stakeholder Network who have shared their experiences and expertise with us. Their support will help keep future generations of children safe.”

    Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive of Epilepsy Action, said: “We know there are still far too many women who haven’t been made aware of the potential risks of taking sodium valproate in pregnancy.

    “It is vitally important that healthcare professionals ensure that all women with epilepsy taking sodium valproate are reviewed in line with the new guidelines.”

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Dec reveals he’s going to be a dad for the first time

Declan Donnelly has announced that he and his wife Ali Astall are to become parents for the first time.

The presenter confirmed the news on Twitter after a report appeared in The Sun on Sunday.

Skip Twitter post by @antanddec

Just wanted to say thank you for all the lovely messages. The news has sneaked out a little earlier than we had hoped but Ali and I are delighted to be expecting our first child. Thanks for all the love, we really appreciate it ❤️ D x pic.twitter.com/g7mZrWLYs4

— antanddec (@antanddec) March 25, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @antanddec

He said the couple were “delighted” but “the news had sneaked out a little earlier than we had hoped”.

Donnelly is currently preparing to host ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway solo, after his co-presenter Ant McPartlin was charged with drink driving.

He will appear in court after being charged with drink driving on 4 April.

In a statement regarding the remaining episodes of Takeaway, ITV said: “ITV can confirm that Saturday Night Takeaway, presented by Declan Donnelly, will return on March 31, and the series finale will be taking place at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida a week later.”

Meanwhile Dec posted a message about taking the stage without his lifelong presenting partner.

“Whilst I never thought I’d be in this position, after much discussion and careful consideration we’ve decided that the remaining two shows of this series of Saturday Night Takeaway will go ahead,” he said.

“We made a promise to take hundreds of deserving winners to Florida to watch the series finale, and we will honour that. Everyone at ITV and the Takeaway team feels we owe it to the audience to complete the series.”

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