-- Randy Dotinga
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There's long been
concern that certain drugs taken to control seizures might be
unsafe for use by pregnant women, due to potential effects on the
Now, new British research suggests that the drug levetiracetam
does not pose a major risk to the neurological development of the
fetus, although there's more evidence that another drug --
valproate -- may cause some problems.
"These results are heartening, as the use of levetiracetam has increased in recent years, but there has been limited information on its effect on the thinking, movement and language abilities of children," study author Rebekah Shallcross of the University of Liverpool said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
"This is the first study to look at the effects of levetiracetam, and further research is needed before we can be certain there are no associations," Shallcross cautioned.
The study of 3- and 4-year-olds tracked 53 children whose
mothers took levetiracetam (brand name Keppra), 44 whose mothers
took valproate (known by several brand names), and 151 children of
mothers who didn't take any drugs during pregnancy.
The researchers examined the children's abilities in areas such
as thinking, movement and language.
The children whose mothers took levetiracetam weren't different
overall from those whose mothers took no drugs. However, those who
took valproate scored lower on tests of movement, expressive
language and language comprehension than those who took
Two experts unconnected to the study said it provided valuable
information to women with epilepsy.
"We have known for some time that valproic acid [valproate], when taken during pregnancy, is associated with an increased risk for birth defects," said Dr. Keith Eddleman, director of obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Due to these increased risks, women with epilepsy who are contemplating pregnancy are more frequently being given levitiracetam -- with very little information available about its effect on the developing fetus."
He said this "study is important in that it is the first
significant study to compare levitiracetam to valproic acid and
shows that levetiracetam has a lower risk for developmental
problems down the road."
Dr. Cynthia Harden is director of North Shore-LIJ's
Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in Manhasset, N.Y. She called
the report "reassuring" for women who rely on levitiracetam to
control their seizures.
The study is also valuable in "confirming what is known
regarding valproate as having the most risk for pregnancy
outcomes," she said. "This carefully performed study focusing on
levetiracetam impacts the well-being of many women and children
affected by epilepsy and helps physicians to appropriately counsel
mothers with epilepsy."
Shallcross added that, "it is very important that women do not
stop taking their medication before speaking to their health care
The study was funded by drug maker UCB Pharma, which makes
Keppra. The findings appear in the Jan. 8 online issue of the
Find out more about the use of epilepsy medications during
pregnancy at the
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.