CCA audit finds that pharmacy teams help protect unborn babies from harms of sodium valproate

Date: 28 November 2019

Nearly 6,500 community pharmacies have taken part in the two-part audit to explore the contribution of pharmacy teams in supporting women and girls prescribed valproate medicines, which are used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder and prevent migraine headaches.

Among women and girls who take valproate, up to four in ten babies are at risk of developmental disorders and approximately one in ten are at risk of birth defects. Despite increasing awareness, there were still 400 pregnancies in women taking valproate during 2016.

The audit, which took place between July and October 2018 and February and March 2019, found that:

  • Pharmacy teams’ awareness about the risks associated with valproate medicines and pregnancy improved over the audit period
  • There was an increase in the proportion of valproate prescriptions, which indicated that a Pregnancy Prevention Programme (PPP) was in place for the patient, and
  • One in five pharmacies indicated that they would appoint a valproate champion in their pharmacy.

Janice Perkins, Chair of the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group said: “The audit’s findings demonstrate the significant role that pharmacy teams play in raising awareness and understanding about high-risk medicines among patients and their families and carers. Supporting women and girls prescribed valproate is a key priority across the whole health sector.”

“Community pharmacy has shown its commitment to improving care for these patients by taking part in this audit and the actions that pharmacy teams committed to undertake following the audit.”

Both phases of the audit were completed by around 6,500 community pharmacies, and during this time, over 36,000 valproate prescriptions were dispensed. Pharmacy teams went beyond their contractual requirements to help improve care for and the safety of patients.

Janice Perkins continued: “However, there are still improvements to be made. The CCA, through its work with the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group as well as the MHRA’s Valproate Stakeholder Network, will continue working to raise awareness and understanding among the profession to help eliminate avoidable harm caused by valproate.”

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