The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has launched an audit tool for community pharmacy teams to use in reviewing their support for girls and women taking valproate medicines. While members are disseminating the audit resources directly to their pharmacy teams, the CCA is wholeheartedly urging all community pharmacies to participate.

The CCA, as the host of the cross-sector Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group, says it has been alert to the risks surrounding valproate medicines used in pregnancy for several years. 

Research has shown that there is a significant risk of birth defects and developmental disorders in all children born to women who take valproate-containing medicines during their pregnancy. Previous efforts to raise awareness of the risks around valproate in pregnancy have however not been successful. In 2016, it is suspected that over 400 women taking valproate became pregnant.

In April 2018, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) changed the licence for valproate medicines so that they must no longer be prescribed to women or girls of childbearing potential unless they are on a Pregnancy Prevention Programme. This licence change is intended to drive a shift in behaviour for healthcare professionals and a shift in awareness of the risks for these patients. It essentially brings valproate into line with other medicines which should never be taken in pregnancy, like thalidomide.

This practice-based audit will seek to explore community pharmacy’s contribution in supporting girls and women of childbearing potential in taking valproate medicines. It will help pharmacists and their teams to review and reflect on their current practice and to assess what changes may need to be made.

Kate Livesey, Policy & Programmes Manager at the CCA commented: “Community pharmacy teams play a vital role in the care of patients taking these high-risk medicines. Given the importance of this year’s topic, we would like to see pharmacy teams from all across the country getting involved in our audit and reviewing their current practice.

"We’re really keen to build a body of evidence from across the whole sector that demonstrates what pharmacy teams are doing to improve care and minimise the risk of harm around valproate in pregnancy.”

You can download the materials here. The first phase of the audit begins in July 2018. 

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