The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has urged women receiving epilepsy medication to discuss their treatment options if they may be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant in the future.

The MHRA conducted a review in which it examined the safety data for risks of major birth defects or abnormalities/concerns with a child’s development for key anti-epileptic drugs. The review found that some of these epilepsy treatments could be associated with some increased risks in pregnancy.

The agency added that Lamictal (lamotrigine) and Keppra (levetiracetam) have been found to be safer than other anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy, while Epilim (valproate) is already known to be seriously harmful if taken in pregnancy and should only be prescribed to a woman if a pregnancy prevention plan is in place.

The MHRA has advised patients to not stop taking any current epilepsy medications without discussing it with a healthcare professional first.

"Patient safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to making sure women are aware of the risks of taking certain epilepsy medicines during pregnancy, particularly valproate. We have shared this important review with doctor and nurses so they can use it to inform discussions with their patients,” said Dr Sarah Branch, director of the MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division.

"If a woman is planning to become pregnant, and is taking a medicine for epilepsy, even if this is some time in the future, it is very important that she should discuss with a healthcare professional the right treatment for her, taking into account the results of this review,” she added.