I call upon the Minister for Health to immediately address the many unanswered questions surrounding the continuing effects of Sodium Valproate. The medication is used to treat epilepsy, as well as bi-polar disorders, however the European Medicines Agency has restricted its use in women due to increased risk of disabilities in children exposed to the drug in the womb.
The Minister for Health recently told me at an Oireachtas Health committee that as soon as the HSE Valproate response project team has finished its work, he will consider an inquiry into the use of Sodium Valproate in Ireland. This report must be completed as a matter of urgency. The need for an inquiry is clear.
There are many reasons why such an inquiry is needed. Of primary concern is the fact that there are families in Ireland where two, three or more children were born with disabilities due to their mothers being prescribed Sodium Valproate. We also need the truth regarding the use of the drug in Ireland when many other EU countries had restricted its use.
How long has his Department known about the risks associated with the use of Valproate in pregnancy? What actions were taken by the State to minimise these risks, in particular prior to 2014 when the European Medicines Agency implemented its first review of risk reduction measures?
I want to commend OACS (Organisation for Anti-Convulsant Syndrome) and its ongoing work and persistence in both supporting the families, and their endeavours to establish the facts around Valproate. Minister Harris should meet them as soon as possible. Tomorrow’s conference is another opportunity to put on record the scientific view of experts regarding use of the drug and accompanying warnings and information. I hope that this will give a renewed impetus to the efforts to establish the truth and provide adequately for those families living with the legacy of the use of this drug.