Study: Abbott's Depakote Ingredient Linked to Autism

Last Updated Dec 4, 2008 11:04 AM EST

A small study has found a correlation between pregnant epileptic women who took the active ingredient in Depakote (Epilim in the U.K.) and autism in their children. The study will be published in the journal Neurology (no link yet). Here's the meat of it:
The study ... followed 632 children from womb to birth and into childhood between 2000 and 2006. Nearly half the children were exposed to various epilepsy drugs in the womb, while the other half were not.
Statistically, researchers estimate that children who were exposed to the drug sodium valproate were seven times more likely to later develop autism than the children who were not exposed to any epilepsy drug.
What does that mean in real numbers? Only nine of the 632 children received an autism diagnosis. Doctors cautioned that epileptics may actually endanger their babies more by not taking the drug:
"Prolonged seizure could cause blood flow problems to the baby, which could cause injury," said Dr. Michael Goldstein, who is also in practice with Western Neurological Associates in Salt Lake City.
Sodium valproate is the active ingredient in the predecessor drug to Depakote, the injectable Depakene. Depakote is divalproex sodium, a stable co-ordination compound comprised of sodium valproate and valproic acid. Depakote and Depakene are marketed by Abbott Labs. Epilim is marketed by Sanofi-Aventis. Here's Reuters' take. Here's some history from The Sun -- Britain's most reliable newspaper!

Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons notes:

There are other known problems for women who take Depakote, including the development of ovarian cysts as was found in this study last year. Earlier this year, the FDA issued a warning about suicidality connected with the use of Depakote and other anti-seizure drugs.
  • Read the reaction of epileptics and parents of autistic children here.
  • Read the reaction of plantiffs' lawyers looking for clients here.