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NMC updates guidance on risks of epilepsy drug for women



The Nursing and Midwifery Council has updated guidance on how professionals can work together to support women who are taking sodium valproate and potential risks.

Working with the General Medical Council (GMC) and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC), the regulator has developed a case study to highlight the risks involved for women and girls of childbearing age who are taking this drug.

Sodium Valproate, also known as ‘valproate’ is a medication for epilepsy that can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

In July 2020, valproate was one of the interventions considered by the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety (IMMDS) review.

The review highlighted that many women of childbearing age who were taking the medication had not been properly informed about the risks. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has also strengthened their guidelines related to valproate.

NHS England sent a letter this month to all women known to be taking valproate. Combined with the MHRA’s updated regulatory position it should mean that women being prescribed sodium valproate are made aware of the risks and have a pregnancy prevention plan in place.

However, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) state that for ‘some women already taking valproate but unaware of the risks, this can create complex situations and difficult conversations with their healthcare providers’.

Their new case study highlights how health workers can help tackle this situation.

The NMC state: ‘The professionals on our register work across a variety of different settings and nurses and midwives may also have the opportunity to work with women and families to offer information, and access to resources and services relating to sexual and reproductive health and contraception. Health visitors working with families can help to identify any development issues that could be the result of valproate use in pregnancy.’

The NMC keep their website updated with new information relating to this issue.