Mayo senator seeking public inquiry into contoversial medication – Connaught Telegraph

A MAYO Oireachtas member is escalating her campaign for a public inquiry into the controversial medication, sodium valproate.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said it has being used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

She stated the European Medicines Agency has restricted its use in women due to the increased risk of disabilities in children exposed to valproate in the womb.

These disabilities are collectively known as foetal valproate syndrome and can include serious developmental disorders in between 30% and 40% of cases and congenital malformations in approximately 10% of cases.

She said data suggest that up to 1,250 children may have been born with valproate-related disabilities since the medication was licensed in Ireland in 1975.

In May 2018 the Oireachtas Health Committee recommended an inquiry into prescription of valproate medicines in Ireland and prompt roll-out of supports for families affected by foetal anticonvulsant syndrome.

But these recommendations have not yet been acted upon.

“Accountability and redress for the prescribing of sodium valproate during pregnancy is long overdue. Why can’t this government address this? ” she asked.

Senator Conway-Walsh said a public inquiry need not be lengthy or expensive.

The Erris-based representative said: “We owe it to these families, the stress they have gone through.

“And the stress for mothers, you can imagine, mothers …almost blaming themselves, ‘if I hadn’t taken this drug my child would have been born without a disability’.

“But they didn’t know. So the anguish of the mothers that I meet is ‘I allowed this to happen to my child’; that is desperate, terrible.”

In response to a parliamentary question on the issue last month, Health Minister Simon Harris outlined: “The HSE’s report on its Valproate Response Project has been considered within my department, and I have received briefing from officials.

“The report describes the HSE’s work on sodium valproate issues since the Valproate Response team was established in May 2018.

“This work has included the provision of an expert support service for people with concerns about exposure to sodium valproate; developing a diagnostic pathway for foetal valproate syndrome; and improving the structures in place to support families affected by valproate syndrome.

“The HSE has also begun the development of a Programme for Women’s Health in Epilepsy, which will coordinate the national response to issues relating to sodium valproate.

“I understand that the HSE intends to publish its report in the near future.”

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