Valproic acid after five decades of use in epilepsy: Time to reconsider the indications of a time-honoured drug

Torbjörn Tomson, Dina Battino, Emilio Perucca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Since the serendipitous discovery of its anticonvulsant properties more than 50 years ago, valproic acid has become established as an effective broad-spectrum antiepileptic drug that is particularly useful for the management of generalised epilepsies, for which treatment alternatives are few. However, during the past few years increasing evidence has accumulated that intake of valproic acid during pregnancy is associated with a significant risk of dose-dependent teratogenic effects and impaired postnatal cognitive development in children. Because of these risks, valproic acid should not be used as a first-line drug in women of childbearing potential whenever equally or more effective alternative drugs are available-as in the case of focal epilepsy. In some generalised epilepsy syndromes, such as juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, valproic acid has better documented efficacy than alternative drugs and drug selection should be a shared decision between the clinician and the informed patient based on careful risk-benefit assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-218
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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