Printer Friendly

Phenobarbital linked to lowering of intelligence.

A new study has shown a link between phenobarbital and the intelligence scores of men whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy.

Phenobarbital, a barbiturate, was commonly prescribed during the 1960s, 70s and early 80s as a sleeping aid and tranquilizer, and to pregnant women for pregnancy-related high. blood pressure, vomiting, and other problems, says June Machover Reinisch, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University in Bloomington. Even today it remains an important treatment for pregnant women who have seizure disorders.

The study, which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, tested two groups of Danish men born between 1959 and 1961. Those in the group whose mothers had taken phenobarbital during pregnancy -- mostly for pregnancy-related high blood pressure - scored an average of seven points lower on a hundred-point intelligence scale than those in the group who were not exposed to phenobarbital in the womb.

It was found further that the IQ scores were even lower for those men whose mothers took the drug if they came from impoverished families or if the pregnancies were unwanted. Coming from a poor family and being exposed to phenobarbital conferred a 12.5 point disadvantage compared to the non-exposed group, while those who were both poor and unwanted scored an average of twenty points lower.

Despite the frightening numbers, experts urge caution in interpreting the findings. Phenobarbital still has its important uses in the treatment of pregnant women with seizure disorders, and any woman whose physician has prescribed the drug should not suddenly stop taking it without consulting the doctor.

Stopping the phenobarbital abruptly may cause seizures, a problem which cannot at this time be solved by prescribing another drug. Karen Filkins, director of reproductive genetics at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, says that phenobarbital is probably the safest of the drugs for seizure-related disorders, and that other drugs may cause birth defects.

Also, there may have been other, as yet unknown, factors affecting the intelligence scores of the men in the study besides phenobarbital. Further research is necessary to confirm the results.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Sep 22, 1995
Previous Article:The weather: friend and tyrant, random thoughts on weather.
Next Article:Cholesterol: always in animal products, never in plants.

Related Articles
Seizure drug lowers IQ in children.
Antiepileptic drugs affect cognition in children. (Monitor for Behavior Problems).
Impact of prenatal exposure to anticonvulsants appears small.
Epilepsy drug linked to heart attack risk: Phenobarbital investigated.
Epilepsy drug could raise schizophrenia risk.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters