Valproate safety

Women and girls using valproate medicines must now be protected by a Pregnancy Prevention Programme, which brings valproate in line with other medicines which are dangerous during pregnancy, such as isotretinoin and thalidomide.

A joint resource has been published today to support pharmacy teams in helping women and girls who have been prescribed valproate medicines.  The resource includes a decision pathway and key points for consideration to prompt conversations between the pharmacy team and their patients.

Download valproate safety resource

It has been developed by the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group and Royal Pharmaceutical Society in partnership with the pharmacy organisations represented on the MHRA’s Valproate Stakeholder Network, including Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, Community Pharmacy Scotland, Community Pharmacy Wales, the Pharmacy Forum of Northern Ireland and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

The resource builds on the MHRA’s national toolkit for all healthcare professionals and enables pharmacists to understand where they can advise and help patients.  The resource also aligns closely with a clinical audit on valproate safety that the Company Chemists’ Association has launched (see more below).

Commenting on the launch of the joint resource, Janice Perkins FRPharmS, Chair of the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group said:
“It’s been great to work collaboratively on this resource for pharmacists and their teams, to help drive consistent understanding of what actions should be taken across the entire network. Community pharmacy teams are perfectly placed to support women and girls taking valproate, working closely with their local GP surgery teams to raise awareness, reduce potential risks of harm and make a difference.”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Board Chair, Sandra Gidley added:
“Every pharmacist advising patients on valproate should use this toolkit. We are proud to have worked with so many pharmacy organisations to help protect women, girls and babies from the dangers of using valproate medicines in pregnancy. Pharmacists and pharmacy teams have a very important role to play in talking to women about the risks of valproate, but also to ensure they never suddenly stop taking their medicines without a review from the prescriber first.”

Clinical audit tool

In June 2018, the Company Chemists’ Association launched an audit tool for community pharmacy teams to use in reviewing their support for girls and women taking valproate medicines.

This practice-based audit seeks to explore community pharmacy’s contribution in supporting girls and women of childbearing potential in taking valproate medicines.  It will help pharmacists and their teams to review and reflect on their current practice and to assess what changes may need to be made.

All pharmacy teams are encouraged to get involved in the audit, which takes place in two phases – one in July 2018 and one in November 2018. 

Access clinical audit

Kate Livesey, Policy & Programmes Manager at the CCA commented: “Community pharmacy teams play a vital role in the care of patients taking these high-risk medicines.  Given the importance of this year’s topic, we would like to see pharmacy teams from all across the country getting involved in our audit and reviewing their current practice.  We’re really keen to build a body of evidence from across the whole sector that demonstrates what pharmacy teams are doing to improve care and minimise the risk of harm around valproate in pregnancy.”