A study published on May 18, 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical
Association, finds that newer epilepsy drugs are not linked with an increase
in birth defects compared to the older drugs. The newer drugs used to
treat epilepsy include lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, gabapentin, levetiracetam,
and topiramate (Topamax). Prior to the arrival of this new generation
of epilepsy drugs, epileptic patients were treated with Phenobarbital,
phenytoin, valproate and carbamazepine. According to the
L.A. Times Booster Shots blog, these older drugs were linked to a tripling of the risk of birth defects
if used by pregnant women in the first semester of pregnancy.
HealthDay reported that, "[a]lthough the overall rates of birth defects were
low, the study authors found that babies exposed to topiramate had 44
percent higher odds of having a birth defect, while babies exposed to
lamotrigine during the first trimester of pregnancy had 18 percent higher
odds of a birth defect. Those exposed to oxcarbazepine had 14 percent
lower odds of a birth defect, the results showed." This evidence
tends to support that
Topamax (topiramate) may increase the risk of certain birth defects more than
other newer generation epilepsy drugs.
The study authors concluded that "[f]urther studies investigating
newer-generation anti-epileptic drugs and the risk of adverse effects
other than birth defects are needed to provide a more complete picture
of the risks and benefits of different anti-epileptics."