Researchers found the risk is 12 times above normal for expectant mothers given the drug topiramate, branded as Topamax.
Pregnant women who take a widely-prescribed epilepsy drug are more likely to have a child with a cleft lip, a major study concludes.
But the Harvard Medical School-led study found this increases to 12.3 in every 1,000 for those mothers on high doses of topiramate, defined as 200mg.
It is unsure how many women take the drug, but there are 2,500 epileptic women that give birth every year in the UK. The figure is 10 times higher in the US.
Researchers found the risk is 12 times above normal for expectant mothers given the drug topiramate, branded as Topamax
The researchers, which included a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have now called for doctors to avoid prescribing high doses of the drug unless the ‘benefits clearly outweigh the risks’.
How many people take the drug?
Epilepsy UK states that adults, including pregnant women, should take between 100-200mg of topamirate to combat seizures.
Topiramate is also given to treat migraines, bipolar disorder and even weight loss – but scientists warned the risk is much lower for those women.
Epileptics are given much higher doses of the drug to control their seizures, said Dr Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, lead author of the US Government-funded study.
What do the researchers say?
She said: ‘The best course may be to avoid prescribing high doses of topiramate to women of childbearing age unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
‘Our results suggest women with epilepsy on topiramate have the highest relative risk of giving birth to a baby with cleft lip or cleft palate.’
Dr Hernandez-Diaz revealed this was ‘likely due to the higher doses of topiramate when used for controlling seizures.’
ANOTHER SCANDAL-HIT EPILEPSY DRUG
Thousands of angry mothers believe they were deceived about the risks of taking scandal-hit epilepsy pills during pregnancy, it was reported in September.
Nearly 20,000 babies have been born with disabilities since sodium valproate was introduced in the 1970s, figures show.
The drug can cause severe birth defects, including spina bifida, where the spinal cord doesn’t form correctly, and heart and genital defects.
Babies exposed to the drug in pregnancy have a 30 to 40 per cent risk of serious developmental disorders and an 11 per cent risk of congenital malformations.
Sodium valproate is only recommend during pregnancy if there is no better option to control symptoms of their epileptic seizures.
But scores of women say they weren’t warned of the extent of the risk. They have since provided evidence to a European drug regulator.