Women with epilepsy who took the drug valproate ( Depakote) during pregnancy gave birth to children whose IQ at age 3 averaged up to 9 points lower than the scores of children exposed to other epilepsy drugs, according to a new study.
“Valproate exposure to the unborn child is associated with a lower IQ, which is not explained by any of the other factors [influencing IQ], such as mother’s IQ, mother’s age, or epilepsy type,” says Kimford J. Meador, MD, the study’s lead author and professor of neurology at Emory University in Atlanta.
The average IQ of children born to women who took valproate was 92 — 8 below the 100 that is considered average — and the scores of those exposed to other epilepsy drugs ranged from 98 to 101, he tells WebMD.
The implications go beyond the use of the drugs in women of childbearing age who have epilepsy, Meador tells WebMD, because the drug is also commonly prescribed for migraine headaches and bipolar disorder.
In response to the study, published in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine, a spokesperson for Abbott, which makes valproate, said the drug may be the only effective medication for some women.