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Study Finds Newer Epilepsy Meds Safer Than Older Generation of Anti-Epileptics in Pregnant Women

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."

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