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article imageEpilepsy and pain management drug connected with birth defects

By Tim Sandle     May 27, 2016 in Health
A medical study says the drug pregabalin, designed to treat epilepsy as well as neuropathic pain, could be linked to an increased risk of birth defects.
Pregabalin (β-isobutyl-γ-aminobutyric acid) is a medication used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and generalized anxiety disorder. Like any medication it carries known side effects, such as sleepiness, confusion, trouble with memory and poor coordination.
There could, however, be a new and serious side effect in pregnant women. A new study indicates that women taking the drug during the first trimester have a three times greater risk of having a child with major birth defects, when data is compared with women who do not take any anti-seizure drugs.
The study was a literature review, drawn from patients in Switzerland. Here medical records, according to Bioscience Technology, from 656 pregnant women, who took no anti-seizure medication, were compared with the records of 164 pregnant women who had been prescribed pregabalin during pregnancy. The drug prescribing records were then compared with the birth records.
It was found that six percent of the babies born to women who took pregabalin had major birth defects. The defects included problems with the central nervous system or heart defects. The rate for babies born to women who took no anti-seizure drugs, in relation to heart conditions, was two percent. In comparison, the rate of birth defects, in relation to cental nervous system issues, for babies born to women who did not take the drug was less than one percent (at 0.5 cases out of each 100 women.)
In terms of doses, the women who took pregabalin did so at about six weeks into their pregnancies. The majority of women took the drug to combat neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage or disease affecting the somatosensory nervous system. This form of pain resembles stabbing sensations or ‘electric shocks.’ A low proportion of the women had been prescribed the drug for mental health reasons (bipolar disorder or depression.)
It should be noted that this is a single study and further information is required. Any person reading this who is potentially affected should not stop taking the medication and instead seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner.
The research was carried out by scientists at the Swiss Teratogen Information Service and the findings are published in the journal Neurology. The paper is: “Pregnancy outcome following maternal exposure to pregabalin may call for concern.”
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