Popular drug may cause Autism?

Posted at: 04/24/2013 5:20 PM | Updated at: 04/24/2013 5:44 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion | WHEC.com

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Doctors are calling it an important find in Autism research and it's something every woman planning to have a baby should know.

A drug that treats neurological disorders may increase the risk of birth defects in unborn babies. It is called Depakote and doctors are saying if you take the drug and plan to have a baby, you should be concerned. Local doctors say the drug was tested on lab rats. They found an hour after exposure to the drug there were changes to their genes. Exposure to the drug resulted in similar behavioral profiles seen in human cases of Autism.

With about 5,000 to 7,000 families in Rochester area dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder, News10NBC wanted to know how local organizations felt about the development.

The exposure has a lot to do with timing, especially when there is exposure within three to four weeks of pregnancy. Women usually don't know. So that's why it's important for women to know about the effects this drug can have on their unborn baby.
Dr. Chris Stodgell from the University of Rochester Medical Center says doctors are now looking at Depakote a little differently.

Dr. Stodgell said, “It is my opinion they should be very worried if they are on Valproate acid and they wish to become pregnant.”

The drug contains a compound called Valproate acid. Along with seizures, it is used to treat epilepsy, migraines, bipolar disorder, even certain types of cancer.

But studies show Valproate acid can also cause a delay in language, shifts in ID and the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. So what about women who need the drug?
News10NBC's Joangel Concepcion said, “Should people take this if they are pregnant? Yes or no?”

Dr. Stodgell said, “That's a good question and it's a tough question to answer and you have to weigh the risk against the benefits.”

Dr. Stodgell does calls the finding a "benchmark for Autism."

Dr. Stodgell said, “I do think it's a step forward. Anything that can lead to early detection means that babies can get intervention earlier which means outcomes are going to be stronger.”

Organizers at AutismUp believe any insight to this disorder may one day lead to a cure. They say it adds a sense of hope for more than 5,000 families in Rochester.

Sarah Milko, AutismUp, said, “Our hopes for the future are that individuals who have Autism get the support and are given the opportunities they need to be successful in the community.”

AutismUp has used to be called UNYFEAT. To wrap up Autism Awareness Month, they will be hosting a gala called “Reaching New Heights” at the Memorial Art Gallery on Friday April 26 at 5:30p.m. All proceeds will go directly to local families who are affected by Autism. For more information, click here.

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