(HealthDay News) – Compared to children exposed in utero to sodium valproate, children exposed in utero to levetiracetam for treatment of maternal epilepsy have superior language and motor development at age 36–54 months, according to a study published online Jan. 8 in Neurology.

Rebekah Shallcross, PhD, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed the cognitive and language development of children born to women with epilepsy exposed in utero to levetiracetam (53 children) or sodium valproate (44 children). Also included in the study were 131 control children born to women without epilepsy and not taking medication during pregnancy. The Griffiths Mental Development Scales and the Reynell Language Development Scale were used to assess the children at 36–54 months of age.

The researchers found that there was no difference on any scale administered for children exposed to levetiracetam in utero and unexposed control children, after controlling for confounding variables. Compared with children exposed to levetiracetam, on average, children with in utero exposure to sodium valproate scored 15.8 points lower on measures of gross motor skills (P<0.001), 6.4 points lower on comprehension language abilities (P=0.005), and 9.5 points lower on expressive language abilities (P<0.001).

“This information should be used collaboratively between health care professionals and women with epilepsy when deciding on women’s preferred choice of antiepileptic drug,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including UCB Pharma, which partially funded the study.

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