Mothers share their devastating stories of how this epilepsy drug “poisoned” their children

An epilepsy drug that has left 20,000 U.K. children with damage after their mothers took it during pregnancy is coming under fire for failing to warn users of this very serious side effect.

The drug, sodium valproate, can control the electrical functions in the brain in a way that prevents life-threatening seizures from taking hold. Also known as Epilim and Convulex, the drug is also sometimes given to people with bipolar disorder or migraines.

According to the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the drug can raise the risk of a baby suffering from serious developmental disorders by as much as 40 percent if taken during pregnancy. It also raises the risks of malformations like cleft palates by 11 percent.

Last September, it was revealed during a hearing at the European Medicines Agency that drug regulators were aware of the problem all the way back in 1973 but failed to add warnings to the drug’s packaging until 2015. In other words, they let women take these dangerous drugs and put their babies at risk for 42 years.

Mothers open up about the toll the drug has taken

It’s one thing to hear the statistics, but it’s the real-life scenarios that illustrate the seriousness of the problem. Three women affected by the problem recently shared their stories with the Daily Mail.

Forty-one-year-old Samantha Luton-Hughes said her doctor never mentioned the medication’s risk of causing serious disabilities during her pregnancies. She said that while they mentioned a risk of cleft palates or lips, they did not warn her of the mental side effects. Her children now suffer from heart murmurs, hernias, and ADHD as a result.

Now, she says they stay home a lot because her children have meltdowns and don’t manage well in social situations, nor do they have any sense of their personal safety. Luton-Hughes is angry that drug regulators did nothing to warn people about sodium valproate’s risks for such a long time.

Another mother, Louise Duffy, took the drug every day during her first pregnancy after her doctors reassured her the baby was growing fine. Her daughter, who is now a teenager, cannot enjoy a normal life because of her autistic symptoms and poor speech. She’s disappointed she can’t do what normal teenagers do, and the fact that she was only diagnosed with fetal valproate syndrome last year means she missed out on essential support that could have helped her as a child.

Despite the diagnosis only being recent, she was born early with a hole in her heart, and she experienced developmental delays as a baby. Caring for her has been stressful, and she will never be able to live on her own.

Natasha Mason, age 28, wants the drug banned after it left her three-year-old son unable to speak and suffering from learning difficulties and severe autism. In her case, doctors told her she would risk the baby’s health by stopping the medication during pregnancy.

Her son, Alfie, was born nine weeks early with breathing difficulties and a doctor diagnosed him with sodium valproate syndrome because of his facial features, which include a long forehead, small lips, and a lack of a nose bridge. His mother blames herself for his condition, and he requires one-on-one support at school. Speaking about the drug, she said: “I want to see it taken off the shelf. I feel failed by the Government.”

Stories like these show just how little people can depend on the government and even their own doctors to look out for their best interests. When you’re pregnant, it’s important to research everything you put into your body to ensure it won’t affect your baby.

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