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Pre-reg Pharmacist Valproate Project

UCA-NI Pre-reg Pharmacist Valproate Project 2021


HSCB recently wrote to all healthcare professionals with updated advice on the safety of antiepileptic drugs in pregnancy.

“Antiepileptic drugs are crucial to control seizures and other epilepsy symptoms and untreated epilepsy can cause harm to both the mother and the unborn baby. However, use of these antiepileptic drugs during pregnancy has been associated with a range of harmful effects to the baby.

In particular, valproate (Epilim) is highly teratogenic and evidence supports a rate of congenital malformations of 10% in infants whose mothers took valproate during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental disorders in approximately 30% to 40% of children. For this reason, valproate should not be used in girls and women of childbearing potential unless other treatments are ineffective or not tolerated, as judged by an experienced specialist. It is contraindicated unless a pregnancy prevention programme is in place.”

In the letter, HSCB reminded all healthcare professionals they must continue to identify and review all female patients on valproate and provide them with the appropriate patient information materials. As community pharmacists, when dispensing the medication, you can ensure that the relevant patients:

- are aware of the risks of taking this medication during pregnancy

- understand that they should have a robust pregnancy prevention plan in place

- understand that they should speak to their GP/specialist in advance of any pregnancy or if they are considering pregnancy to allow for a managed medication switch

- understand what they should do if they discover they are pregnant whilst taking valproate

- are signposted to the relevant information materials

- are encouraged to speak to their GP/specialist if they are unaware of the risks or require more information

Aims of the UCA-NI Valproate Project

Community Pharmacists have an opportunity and a responsibility to speak to women that are dispensed this medication to check that they are aware of the risks on a regular basis.

UCA-NI is challenging all Pre-registration Pharmacists in Northern Ireland through the UCA-NI Pre-reg Valproate Project 2021 to make a difference in the lives of women taking this medication.

The project process:

  • Perform an audit of the pharmacy PMR to identify women in the relevant age category who are taking sodium valproate products
  • You may also consider cross-checking the record to see if they are also prescribed a contraceptive, but this is not essential to the project
  • Contact the relevant GP surgeries to alert them to the project, the patients identified, and discuss the surgery’s own alert process
  • Agree how you would feedback any relevant information to the GP surgery prior to commencement of the project
  • Agree the pharmacy process to identify prescriptions for the patients identified, carrying out the brief intervention
  • Brief the whole pharmacy team on the project and process
  • Collate information from brief interventions held & annotate PMR
  • Communicate as required to the GP surgery
  • Gather anonymised information and feedback to UCA-NI

A range of patient information is available from Sanofi and on the gov.uk website (you will find links in the HSCB letter).

Project Scope:

The project provides you with the opportunity to utilise and practice a number of skills and competences, such as audit, communicating with primary care colleagues, cascade training, brief interventions, patient counselling and data processing.

The final report will be presented to the UCA-NI Board and publicised via Pharmacy in Focus, Pharmaceutical Journal and other media channels, creating a positive story about pre-registration pharmacists in Northern Ireland and demonstrating the value of community pharmacy in improving patient safety.

How to Sign Up

To sign up for the project, contact UCA-NI by 23rd April 2021 with your:

  • Name
  • Tutor name
  • Pharmacy name & address
  • Contact details

Email Natalie Mulholland: natalie@uca.org.uk

We will send you further information and provide you with template documents to help you get started. You should discuss these documents with your Tutor and Pharmacy Manager and amend to suit your own pharmacy and its processes.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Mairead Conlon                                            

Representation Pharmacist               


5 Annadale Avenue

Belfast BT7 3JH

028 9065 6576




Adrienne Clugston, Operations Manager

Mairead Conlon, PACT Co-Ordinator

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