INTRODUCTION: After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) warning on the use of valproate (VPA) in female patients, we explored the antiepileptic drug (AED) prescribing attitudes of Italian epileptologists with regard to sex and VPA use in patients with epilepsy.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A specifically designed 30-item questionnaire was distributed at the annual multicenter meeting of the Italian League Against Epilepsy (LICE), held in Rome on January 2018. One hundred and sixty-nine physicians answered the questionnaire.
RESULTS: In females, VPA was significantly less prescribed as first-choice AED in childhood absence epilepsy (22% females vs 64% males, p < 0.001), Dravet syndrome (54% vs 71%, p = 0.01), juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) (2% vs 74%, p < 0.001), and undetermined epilepsy (0% vs 32%, p < 0.001). Ninety-six percent of the respondents inform teenage girls of the detrimental effects of intrauterine exposure to VPA; 74% recommend contraceptive measures when prescribing VPA. All the respondents stated that they were aware of the recommendations on VPA in female patients, and 64% claimed to have had difficulties in implementing them.
CONCLUSIONS: The main challenges were represented by women with JME, who were seizure-free on VPA and failed to respond to levetiracetam and lamotrigine, and by little girls for whom VPA was considered the best choice. According to many Italian epileptologists, the decision to withdraw VPA should be shared with the patient.