Discussing the risks of sodium valproate

This case study is about discussing the risk of taking sodium valproate with a mother who’s been prescribed it for several years.

We've developed this case study with the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. While the characters are fictional, the case study is based on several people’s lived experiences, which were generously shared by patients and clinicians.

It highlights the risk of harm created by taking sodium valproate (‘valproate’), a medication for epilepsy that can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Valproate was one of the interventions considered by the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, which reported in July 2020. The review highlighted that many women had not been properly informed about the risks of taking valproate.  

The MHRA’s strengthened regulatory position should mean that no more women are prescribed sodium valproate without discussing the risks of harm and having a Pregnancy Prevention Plan in place.

However, for some women already taking valproate but unaware of the risks this can create complex situations and difficult conversations with their healthcare providers.

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