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Numerous medications to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorders contain the substance valproate, while medications that treat severe acne and psoriasis contain retinoids. If they are used during pregnancy these active ingredients can cause congenital anomalies and developmental disabilities in newborns. Cases of this have already been reported on in several EU countries. The Institute of Public Health at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) are carrying out an extensive survey commissioned by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) along with colleagues from seven other EU countries. The aim of the survey is to determine the level of awareness among patients, pharmacists, general practitioners, psychiatrists, neurologists, and dermatologists about the risk factors in order to prevent pregnancy if these medications are being used. The study will help promote the safe use of these medications.

Knowledge regarding the effect and use of medicines is gathered during their development and research stages, as well as after the medication is already being administered to patients. As early as in 2017, the EMA concluded in a public discussion that patients are insufficiently informed regarding the complications these medications can cause if used during pregnancy. As a result, the Pregnancy Prevention Programme was renewed to prevent pregnancies as long as a patient is using medications containing valproate (such as Convulex, Depakine, Absenor), or retinoids (such as acitretin, or Neotigason and isotretinoin, or Roaccutane). Electronic surveys of patients, pharmacists and doctors from eight EU countries (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Latvia) will provide an accurate account of patients' current awareness levels and the extent to which pharmacists and doctors use materials recommended by the EMA. The surveys will also show how useful these materials are at improving risk mitigation measures in the future.

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In Latvia, the study will be carried out until June. All participating member states will report their results to the EMA this summer, and the EMA will later adopt new centralised measures to raise public awareness regarding the risks. 'Doctors, pharmacists, and female patients of childbearing age will be asked to respond to one electronic survey taking up 10 minutes. The result will be a precise and valuable study of the situation and allow for improvements in the future,' notes Elita Poplavska (pictured), leading researcher of the RSU Institute of Public Health and leading researcher of the study in Latvia.

Surveys about medications containing valproates:

For women (in Latvian)

For pharmacists (in Latvian)

For doctors (in Latvian)

Surveys about medications containing retinoids:

For women (in Latvian)

For pharmacists (in Latvian)

For doctors (in Latvian)