Epilepsy Drug Topiramate May Increase Risk of Birth Defects

September 24, 2008, by Michael A. DeMayo

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology is reporting that results from a small study indicate that topiramate, a drug used to treat epilepsy, may increase the chances of a newborn sustaining a birth defect if a pregnant mother takes the drug.

The test involved 203 women that became pregnant while using topiramate. Of the 178 newborns, 16 of them had major birth defects. Four of the babies had cleft lips or cleft palates. Four of the male infants were born with genital birth defects.

The rate of birth defects among newborns whose mothers took topiramate was higher than for the rest of the population. More birth defects also occurred in newborns whose mothers took both topiramate and valproate (another epilepsy drug) and women who took topiramate in conjunction with other epilepsy drugs.

However, Andres Kanner, the associate director of the Epilepsy Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says the chances that a pregnant women will have a baby with a birth defect is dependent on numerous factors, some of which were not part of this study. John Craig, the lead researcher of the study, says that additional research must be performed to confirm the results but that doctors and women that are (or are considering) getting pregnant and get migraines or have epilepsy need to be warned about the potential risks that could result from using the medication. The anti-seizure drug (Topamax is the brand name) is used to treat epilepsy and migraine headaches.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects are the number one cause of infant fatalities. Causes of birth defects include:

Dangerous drugs
• Alcohol
• Exposure to certain environmental chemicals
• Exposure to high levels of radiations
• Birthing malpractice
• Genetics

Epilepsy Drug May Boost Birth Defect Risk, WashingtonPost.com, July 21, 2008

Epilepsy drug linked to greater birth-defect risk, USA Today, July 25, 2008

Birth Defects, HealthAtoZ.com

Related Web Resources:


Topiramate, MedLinePlus

Birth Defects, CDC

Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology


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