Research backs Emma’s FACS battle

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I am very proud to be an Ambassador for the Charity FACS.

Here is an article on my friend Emma Murphy and her campaign for justice for the families affected by FACS Fetal Anti Convulsant Syndrome.

One of my fellow special needs mums, whom I met over Twitter, Emma Murphy, is spearheading a campaign highlighting the emerging dangers of taking the Epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate (Epilim) in pregnancy after many cases have emerged of children born to mothers taking the drug had developmental difficulties and other disabilities. It’s being described as ‘the new thalidomide’.

Emma and one of her children

Emma and one of her children

Emma Murphy has already made a splash with her campaign and today there is an article in the Telegraph about research which bears the anecdotal evidence out.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Researchers at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, studied 528 women in the north west of England. Just fewer than half the mothers had epilepsy and all but 34 of whom took anti-epileptic drugs during their pregnancy. Fifty nine mums took carbamazepine; 59 took valproate; 36 took lamotrigine; 41 took a combination; and 15 took other drugs.


Their children were assessed three times up to the age for/of six and their mothers asked if they had consulted specialists about their child’s development. By the age of six, 19 children had been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, of these 12 had autism, one had both autism and ADHD, three had ADHD and four had dyspraxia. Children exposed to valproate alone in the womb were six times more likely to be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder. Those exposed to valproate plus other drugs were ten times more likely to have a diagnosis than children whose mothers did not have epilepsy. It means 12 per cent of children whose mums had taken valproate alone during their pregnancy had a neurodevelopmental problem, as did one in seven of those whose mums had taken valproate with other drugs.

No child born to a mum with epilepsy, but who didn’t take drugs for the condition during her pregnancy, was diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Author of the study Dr Rebecca Bromley, of the Department of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology, said in the Telegraph: “If sodium valproate is the treatment of choice, women should be provided with as much information as possible to enable them to make an informed decision. But on no account should pregnant women just stop taking the drug for fear of harming their developing child.”

Below is the press release from the IN FACT campaign. If you have a similar experience, please get in touch with her.



Since the drug Sodium Valproate (Epilim) appeared on the market in the late 1970’s,  there have been numerous medical journals and research papers released, discussing its dangers and the damages it may cause when taken during pregnancy, and in some cases has been named as the New Thalidomide.  However, over 30 years on, the ultimate paper has been published bringing to light  the damages caused to the foetus when taken by the mother during pregnancy,  these include cognitive impairment,  problems with Verbal IQ and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

The drug Sodium Valproate was introduced onto the UK market in 1973 and became the ‘drug of choice’ for clinicians during the 80s, 90s and into the 00s.  Since its introduction, a large number of children have been born to women with Epilepsy taking this drug with numerous difficulties and abnormalities diagnosed as Foetal Valproate Syndrome, under the umbrella of Foetal Anti-Convulsant Syndromes (FACS).

However, the drug is no longer just being prescribed for Epilepsy, but is now given for a range of neurological problems such as Bipolar, Migraine Headaches and Pain Relief.   In the UK alone approximately 1200 children are exposed to Valproate each year  and  diagnosed with Foetal Valproate Syndrome.   As the drug has been on the market for 40 years, this means there may be around 48,000 people exposed to this drug costing the UK Government millions of pounds each year in health care, education, social services and benefits for the families whose children have been affected.

Read more in Special Needs Jungle

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