Use of Valproate in Women: An Audit of Prescriptions to 10,001 Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurosurgery Outpatients

ABSTRACT

Background: Gestational exposure to valproate is associated with an unacceptably high risk of major congenital malformations, neurodevelopmental disorders, and other adverse outcomes. Prescription of valproate to reproductive-age women is therefore strongly discouraged in many parts of the world. To our knowledge, there is no pharmacoepidemiologic study of the prescription of valproate to women in a developing country.

Methods: During September to November 2019, we examined the prescriptions of 10,001 consecutive outpatients issued by about 250 medical professionals from the Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India (this is a large, tertiary care referral center and a designated institute of national importance, the largest of its kind in the country). We examined the prescriptions for inclusion of any formulation of valproate in women and men separately. For comparison purposes, we also extracted data on the prescription of carbamazepine.

Results: A large proportion of women (647/3,837; 16.9%) received a prescription that included valproate (mean dose = 898 mg/d); the age band 15–45 years accounted for 460 (71.1%) of these prescriptions. In comparison, 403 (10.5%) of 3,837 women received a prescription that included carbamazepine, and 289 (71.7%) of these were in the 15-to-45–year age band. Women were more likely to receive a prescription for valproate in the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery than in the Department of Psychiatry (29.1% vs 14.4%, respectively).

Conclusions: Female outpatients of childbearing age who consulted for disorders related to psychiatry, neurology, and neurosurgery were found to have a high exposure to valproate. If these findings can be generalized to other practices in the country, and to other developing countries, they suggest a pressing need for regulatory guidance regarding the avoidance of prescription of valproate to women of childbearing age. This is a public health matter of global importance.

Volume: 83

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