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29 September 2015

Study looks at risks to children exposed to epilepsy drugs during pregnancy

A study which looked at the risk of malformations for children exposed to lamotrigine or levetiracetam in the womb has found that both medications seem to be safer than many other epilepsy drugs.

The number of women of child bearing age with epilepsy who are prescribed lamotrigine and levetiracetam has increased in recent years but knowledge about the risks of both medications to an unborn child is limited by the size of individual studies.

Researchers from the universities of Manchester and Liverpool and the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust looked at data from six studies which had investigated both drugs in comparison to one or more other drugs.

Presenting their results at the International League Against Epilepsy 2015 in London, researcher Rebecca Bromley from the University of Manchester said that the malformation risk for the two drugs seemed comparable but that they both showed a lower risk of malformation than some other anti-epileptic medications.

Lamotrigine and levetiracetam during pregnancy

The study showed that children exposed to lamotrigine while in the womb had a lower malformation risk than those exposed to topiramate, phenobarbital, phenytoin, valproate and carbamazepine. There were no significant differences between children exposed to lamotrigine, gabapentin and oxcarbazepine, but comparable numbers of children in the data were limited.

Children exposed to levetiracetam in the womb had a significantly lower malformation risk than those exposed to topiramate, phenobarbital, valproate and carbamazepine.

Rebecca Bromley said that the study underlined the importance of women signing up to the UK Epilepsy & Pregnancy Register which was set up to collate and publish information about the risk of major malformations in children exposed to anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy. Malformations include heart defects, spina bifida and cleft palate.

To register go to