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FDA discovers birth defect complications caused by topiramate

Parents want the best for their children, starting before they're even born. Many mothers and fathers will research the best foods to eat, supplements to take, and even activities to stimulate and help develop their unborn baby's brain. Parents pay close attention to prenatal care in an effort to protect the health of this new life they've created.

However, a new report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a drug used to treat epileptic seizures and migraines could cause birth defects if consumed during a women's pregnancy. The drug, topiramate, has officially been linked to cases of children born with cleft lip or palate, both of which can cause serious health problems throughout the child's life.

Children born with a cleft lip or palate often develop conditions which limit their ability to hear or speak normally. These limitations can haunt them the rest of their lives, creating problems with socialization which can lead to depression.

In light of these findings, the FDA recommended that doctors warn women who are or could become pregnant of these dangers before prescribing topiramate. The director of the FDA's Division of Neurology Products advised both doctors and patients to consider alternative forms of treatment for their seizure or migraine conditions, in order to avoid potential pregnancy complications.

The FDA will also raise the label warning placed on topiramate prescriptions to category D, which signifies that human patients have experienced fetal injuries which taking the drug.

While researchers believe there are some cases where topiramate's benefits outweigh the potential complications, they stress the importance of using alternative medications when possible.

Source: Medscape Today, "Topiramate Linked to Birth Defects." Robert Lowes, 4 March 2011.

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