A Danish, population-based study followed 655,615 children born from 1996 to 2006 through December 2010 to measure the association between use of the anti-epileptic medication valproate and autism spectrum disorders. 5,437 of these children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders during the study, with an average age of 8.8 years at follow-up. Of these diagnoses, the researchers found an absolute risk of 4.42% for autism spectrum disorder associated with the use of the drug. Because the found association is moderate, researchers are being conservative in warning against the use of the drug for women who may require epilepsy control. However, the research group reported in the April 24th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association saying, “because autism spectrum disorders are serious conditions with lifelong implications for affected children and their families, even a moderate increase in risk may have a major health importance.”[i] Emory University researchers Kimford Meador, MD, and David Loring, PhD, responded to the findings suggesting that because of the high incidence of unplanned pregnancies, “Women of childbearing potential should be informed of the potential risks of fetal valproate exposure before valproate is prescribed.”i The study found that women who had been taking valproate prior to pregnancy and discontinued use during pregnancy yielded less risk of autism spectrum disorder in offspring than women who continued use of the drug. While the study utilized a large population and reliable data, specifications of dosage, alcohol consumption, folic acid supplementation, and precise schedule of use were not examined. The authors assert a need for further research into the strength of the found association.
[i] Phend, Crystal. “Autism Tied to Valproate in Pregnancy.” Med Page Today. N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/Autism/38640>.
“Use of Anti-Epileptic Drug During Pregnancy Associated With Increased Risk of Autism.” Science Daily. N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423161855.htm>.