Lyrica, a widely prescribed drug for epilepsy and pain may increase the risk of birth defects. This is according to a new study published on May 18th 2016 in the medical journal Neurology.
The small study was not controlled for other medical conditions or medications and the senior author of the study, Dr. Thierry Buclin said that the result should be taken with caution.
Dr. Buclin was quoted as saying
These results should be taken with caution – it’s a warning, but it cannot be taken as a certainty.
Doctors prescribe Lyrica for a variety of health issues including anxiety, epilepsy, fibromyalgia and pain.
Animal experiments have also linked Lyrica to birth defects. But, Dr. Buclin reminded patients that there are many examples of drugs that show side effects in animals but turn out to be quite safe in humans. Still, he doesn’t recommend Lyrica for anyone who is thinking about becoming pregnant.
A spokesperson for Pfizer Inc. said that there were significant limitations to the study and that it cannot be used to draw definitive conclusions. Pfizer is the maker of Lyrica.
Some of the birth defects that were linked to the drug in the study include heart defects and issues with the central nervous system as well as with other organs.
According to the study, women taking Lyrica were six times more likely to have a baby with a major central nervous system defect compared to women not taking the drug.
There were 164 participants in the study who took Lyrica during their first trimester. The control group was 656 pregnant women who did not take Lyrica. The 164 women taking Lyrica did so for a variety of reasons: 39 for psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolor disorder or psychosis; 5 for epilepsy; 1 for restless legs syndrome. Most women started taking the drug before pregnancy but all stopped within an average of six weeks into their pregnancy. 22 of the women were taking another anti-seizure drug as well.
Dr. Page Pennell who is an an associate professor of neurology at Harvard as well as the coauthor of an editorial on this study said that “The risk of birth defects is probably higher with Lyrica”. However, she said, it just can’t be proven with this study.
Lyrica is also known as “pregabalin” and is FDA approved to treat epilepsy, fibromyalgia and certain types of pain.