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Matthews welcomes confirmation of public inquiry into Valproate scandal

Date: 16 December 2020

Green Party TD for Wicklow, Deputy Steven Matthews has welcomed Health Minister Donnelly’s decision to establish a formal inquiry into the historical licensing and use of Sodium Valproate (Epilim) in pregnancy following years of calls from the people impacted.

Discussing the news, Deputy Matthews said,

“The campaign was something I was aware of but my eyes were properly opened to this scandal when I was contacted over the summer by a family of a child that suffered extreme complications as a result of his mother taking Sodium Valproate in pregnancy to treat her epilepsy. He was born in 2010 with lifelong disabilities that have been tied directly to his mother’s use of Sodium Valproate, through no fault of her own. The victims’ groups, who have spent years campaigning for a public inquiry, deserve huge credit for their bravery and persistence in not letting this go.

“I wrote to Minister Donnelly in September to ask that he meet with the advocacy groups to allow them to outline their concerns. The response, at the time, confirmed that he would facilitate a meeting before Christmas. To get news now that it has progressed in this way is vindication of the efforts of all those involved, and I want to thank the Minister for his swift action following my request. In 2018, the HSE had established a Valproate Response Group but I know that the advocacy groups felt that not enough action had been taken. However, we seem to be moving in the right direction.

“While nothing can change the incredible challenges faced by those impacted, and I can’t presume what any inquiry will outline, I hope that this inquiry will be expansive enough to consider all of the stories of those impacted, all related issues and that adequate measures will be taken to acknowledge the suffering that has occurred as a direct result of the failure to communicate the dangers of the use of this drug in pregnancy. Now the clear medical advice, as stated on the HSE website, is for pregnant women not to take this medication but this information was not as prevalent at the time”.

“I will continue to offer as much support as I can to any people impacted by this issue and work with those who have spent years fighting for answers and I hope that this inquiry can be established as soon as possible”, concluded Deputy Matthews.

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