RCGP statement on sodium valproate use

Responding to a Sunday Times investigation, published today, on continued use of sodium valproate for women of child-bearing age, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“The use of sodium valproate is strictly regulated given the terrible effects it can have on the children born to women taking it during pregnancy. It should not be prescribed to women of child-bearing age unless they are on a pregnancy prevention plan or there are exceptional circumstances.

“Most prescriptions of sodium valproate - which can be an effective treatment for some people with epilepsy and bipolar disorder - will be made in secondary care, but some will be made in general practice. The RCGP has worked with other medical Royal Colleges to produce guidance for clinicians to navigate the complex prescribing situations that can arise with some patients.

“It is vital that all medications have instructions on how to take them, and that warnings are clearly visible on or in the packaging, and we would encourage all patients to read these before taking them. It is concerning that the Sunday Times investigation found instances of sodium valproate being dispensed without appropriate information visible.

“It’s important that any patients who are currently taking sodium valproate do not stop without seeking medical advice. Any woman taking sodium valproate who is planning to have a baby should tell their consultant or GP so that alternative treatments can be explored.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.