Spina Bifida and Depakote

Spina bifida and Depakote side effects of use during pregnancy have sparked Depakote lawsuits being filed on behalf of spina bifida birth defect victims.  Contact a Depakote lawyer if your child has been affected.

An emerging body of research has suggested that children born to women who take the anticonvulsant Depakote during pregnancy may be significantly more likely to develop one or more serious birth defects like spina bifida. Depakote is an anticonvulsant drug approved for the treatment of epilepsy, bipolar disorder, seizures and migraine headaches in patients. Depakote has been on the U.S. market since 1983 and is currently manufactured by pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories. Depakote (valproic acid) functions by inhibiting the firing of certain impulses in the brain which are responsible for causing seizures. Since its introduction, Depakote has become one of the most frequently prescribed anticonvulsant drugs available in the U.S. and other countries. Unfortunately, a number of studies have indicated that due to side effects of Depakote it may no longer be safe in the treatment of pregnant women or women of childbearing age. If you took Depakote while pregnant and your child was born with a serious birth defect, contact a Depakote attorney immediately, as your child may be entitled to lifetime care.

Spina Bifida Symptoms

Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect caused by the failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development. The neural tube is the precursor to the child's central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. In children born with spina bifida, some of the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord fail to fuse together, leaving an opening in the spinal column through which the spinal cord may actually protrude. Spina bifida symptoms depend on the degree of the birth defect and the location of the actual malformation. The two major types of spina bifida are spina bifida occulta and spina bifida cystica, which vary greatly in severity.

Spina Bifida Occulta

Spina bifida occulta, or "hidden" spina bifida, is the least severe type of this birth defect, and many children with this form of spina bifida are asymptomatic. In children with spina bifida occulta, the spinal cord and nerves are normal, but at least one vertebrae is malformed. However, the only visible marker of this defect is a small birthmark or patch of hair at the site of the defect.

Spina Bifida Cystica

Spina bifida cystica is a much more severe form of spina bifida, characterized by a fluid-filled cyst which protrudes from the child's back. The cyst may be covered by a layer of skin and may contain the spinal cord, membranes, or both. Children with more serious forms of spina bifida, such as spina bifida cystica, may exhibit symptoms like incontinence, lack of sensation in parts of the body, paralysis of the legs, and hydrocephalus, or a build up of fluid in the brain.

Spina Bifida Treatment and Prognosis

Most children born with spina bifida undergo surgery in order to repair the defect. Sometimes, affected children may require a shunt if they are suffering from hydrocephalus, or antibiotic treatment to ward off infections like meningitis or urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the defect, children with spina bifida may struggle with difficulties involving movement, learning and development, even with treatment. Many infants with this birth defect will also require long-term medical care in order to monitor development and to treat any physical, neurological or intellectual complications.

Depakote and Side Effect Studies

The FDA recently issued a safety announcement warning patients and healthcare providers about the increased risk of birth defects among children exposed to Depakote during pregnancy. Among these potential Depakote birth defects were neural tube defects like spina bifida, craniofacial malformations, and heart defects. In 2001, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which researchers found that 20.6% of infants exposed to one anticonvulsant drug in utero developed birth defects, compared to 28% of infants exposed to more than one anticonvulsant, and 8.5% of unexposed infants. Another NEJM study published in 2010 indicated that infants born to women who took Depakote during the first trimester of pregnancy were twelve to sixteen times more likely to develop spina bifida, and were two to seven times more likely to develop birth defects like cleft palate, skeletal defects, hand deformations, and heart defects, compared to unexposed infants.

Depakote Use in Pregnancy

Depakote has been classified by the FDA as a pregnancy category D medication, which means there is positive human evidence illustrating the drug's potential to cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently taking Depakote and you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your healthcare provider immediately. You should never stop taking a prescription drug without medical consent, as this may cause further harm to you or your child. However, with your doctor's help, you may be able to find a safer way to treat your condition.

Depakote Attorneys for Spina Bifida Side Effects

Spina bifida is an extremely serious birth defect, characterized by problems in movement, development and learning. If you or a loved one has suffered from a spina bifida side effect and you believe Depakote to be the cause, contact a Depakote attorney to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, which you can collect by filing a Depakote lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories. You are not at fault for any injuries caused by a defective drug. Drug companies like Abbott are responsible for the safety of their medications and should be held accountable for any adverse side effects sustained by consumers of their products. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies intentionally withhold dangerous drug information in an attempt to avoid negative consequences, such as a drug recall. By hiring a Depakote lawyer to represent your case, you can feel confident that your case is in good hands.

Prescription Drugs in The News