Guideline Adherence for Mentally Ill Reproductive-Aged Women on Treatment With Valproic Acid: A Retrospective Chart Review

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Objective: Valproic acid (VPA) use during pregnancy increases fetal risk of major congenital malformations and cognitive impairment. Given these risks, several medical societies have put forth guidelines suggesting to either limit the use of VPA or take certain precautions, such as making sure effective contraception practices and/or appropriate folic acid supplementation are in place, when treating reproductive-aged women. Our study aimed to review and assess adherence to these guidelines.

Methods: Using electronic medical record (EMR) and administrative claims data over a 19-month period (January 1, 2013–July 31, 2014), a retrospective chart review was conducted of all reproductive-aged female patients at a major medical center in the Midwest who were prescribed VPA as treatment for their psychiatric illness (n = 190; aged from 15 to 49 years). Psychiatric diagnoses were determined via ICD-9 billing codes. We assessed 3 variables of interest as an index of adherence to guidelines: chart documentation of provider-patient discussion regarding potential teratogenicity associated with VPA use, prescription of contraceptives, and co-prescription of folic acid.

Results: EMR documentation of provider-patient discussions regarding possible teratogenicity of VPA was rare (13.2%), as was documentation of contraception use (30%) and co-prescription of folate (7.9%). Neither patient demographic characteristics nor diagnoses were associated with outcomes. Among those not receiving treatment in the inpatient setting, patients who were seen by outpatient psychiatry or neurology clinics (rather than other outpatient settings) were more likely to have documented discussions about teratogenicity (23% and 30%, respectively; P = .003), and patients receiving neurologic care were more likely to be prescribed folate than those seen by other providers (26%, P = .004). Women who had contact with inpatient psychiatric services were less likely to be taking contraception (n = 12 [20%], P = .041). Only 22% of women under 34 years of age were documented as using contraception (P = .03).

Conclusions: Adherence to standard guidelines is low even at an academic tertiary care center. To the extent that there is any documentation or co-prescription of folate, it varies by provider specialty.

J Clin Psychiatry 2016;77(4):527–534

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15m10046