The Pregnancy Dilemma of Epileptic Women

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About 20,000 epileptic women must balance the health of their unborn child against their own due to the complications of Topamax. It's a difficult decision that can only be accurately made when all the facts are known. The associates at Anapol Schwartz recommend that pregnant epileptics fully discuss the side effects of Topamax with their physicians.

Understanding the potential complications associated with any drug is absolutely vital to people’s health, and in the case of Topamax, their child’s health.

Imagine the high-stakes emotional dilemma a mother must endure when having to balance her unborn baby’s survival and health against her own. That is precisely what happens for about 20,000 epileptic women each year.* November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and the perfect opportunity to highlight the dangers of a prescription drug that may save an epileptic mother’s life while threatening to cause birth defects or worse for the child she carries.

Seizures can be deadly for a pregnant woman, but taking the anticonvulsant drug Topamax greatly increases the risk of the child developing a facial deformity, according to the FDA’s drug safety report for Topamax. But without the medication, seizures can terminate a pregnancy. It’s a situation the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created to prevent.***

“Too many Americans automatically believe that all drugs are safe,” said Michael H. Monheit, attorney at Anapol Schwartz, “but this is too often not the case. Understanding the potential complications associated with any drug is absolutely vital to people’s health, and in the case of Topamax, their child’s health.”

It took far too long for Johnson & Johnson to provide adequate label warnings about the Topamax dangers thousands of women faced without any notice, Monheit explained. Fifteen years after the initial approval by the FDA, Topamax and generic topiramate were reclassified as a Pregnancy Category D drug. This means that human data indicate risk to a fetus, but the drug’s potential benefits to pregnant women may outweigh its dangers in some situations.** Topiramate has not been recalled for its association with cleft palate and lip birth defects, so women in their childbearing years continue to have access to the drug and the painful decisions that accompany it.

Pregnant epileptic women are urged to fully discuss Topamax side effects with a physician. Tragedy can only be avoided when all risks are fully understood.

National Epilepsy Awareness Month is sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations in an effort to help people overcome the difficulties of epilepsy and inform others about this medical condition.****


Founded in 1977, Anapol Schwartz is a civil justice law firm with 20 attorneys. The firm has law offices in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., as well as in Cherry Hill, N.J. and Scottsdale, Ariz. The firm has represented clients in many personal injury matters, such as defective medical devices, dangerous drugs and medical negligence.



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Brian J. O'Malley
Anapol Schwartz
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