Women urged speak to GP if they've taken common pill

A major safety review has prompted doctors to stop prescribing a popular pill for women and girls in the UK. The pill is used by 30,000 women and girls. New safety measures are being introduced by the MHRA for topiramate.

It follows a review triggered by a new study in Europe. Topiramate , which also goes by the brand name Topamax, is used to treat epilepsy and prevent migraines, reports BristolLive.

Findings from studies were examined by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM). The studies examined the risks associated with using topiramate during pregnancy.

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It showed that children faced a risk level 'two to three times higher' for intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, when born to mothers who took topiramate during pregnancy. The CHM has now made recommendations and the MHRA has issued advice to healthcare professionals that topiramate should not be prescribed to treat epilepsy during pregnancy unless there is no suitable alternative treatment.

Topiramate should already not be used during pregnancy for migraine because of the known link with an increased risk of birth defects. In order to fulfil the conditions of a Pregnancy Prevention Programme, women of childbearing potential must use effective birth control throughout treatment and take a pregnancy test prior to starting topiramate. Healthcare professionals should make patients aware of the risks of the use of the medication during pregnancy.

Patients are also advised that some birth control methods are less effective than others when using topiramate, and their GP or sexual healthcare practitioner will be able to help advise which birth control is right for them. Topiramate is taken to prevent migraines or for the management of epilepsy and is thought to be prescribed to just over 30,000 female patients under the age of 55 in England in one month, according to the latest data from NHS England.

Prior to the start of the review, topiramate was already known to have risks associated with significant harm during pregnancy, including a higher risk of birth defects and low birth weight. For this reason, patients were previously advised against using it during pregnancy and to use highly effective contraception during treatment.

Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant, who currently take topiramate for epilepsy, should not stop taking the medication prior to seeking advice from a specialist, as doing so may cause their seizures to start again, happen more often or last longer. If planning to conceive, women should make an appointment with their GP to discuss their treatment options.

A visual warning symbol will be added to the box of all topiramate medicines. This ‘no’ symbol will show a pregnant woman in a red circle with a line through it. This will be accompanied by warning text about the risks.