Does maternal use of THIS antiseizure drug heighten autism risk in babies?

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autism-risk(NaturalHealth365)  Typically, scientific studies are perceived as impartial trials aimed at uncovering truths, whether examining the efficacy of green tea for weight loss or investigating the potential risks of a drug taken during pregnancy on the likelihood of autism in offspring.

However, increasingly, instances of scientific data manipulation are coming to light.  Numbers are tampered with, participant details exhibit inconsistencies, and sometimes, the study’s design appears to skew the results in a particular direction.  Such concerns have arisen regarding a recent investigation conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concerning the drug topiramate and its purported association with autism.

Researchers examine prenatal topiramate exposure and autism risk

Researchers in the study analyzed health records of pregnant women who had epilepsy and took the antiseizure drug topiramate during their pregnancy.  They then measured the outcomes by assessing the children to see if taking the drug during pregnancy could be linked to an increased risk of autism in the children born to the women.

There were four groups in the study:

  • Pregnant women who took topiramate
  • Pregnant women who took lamotrigine
  • Pregnant women who took valproate sodium
  • Pregnant women who did not take any antiseizure medication

The results seemed to show that the children who were exposed to topiramate in utero had a 6.2% chance of having autism by age 8.  This was reportedly 2% higher than the group of women who did not take any antiseizure medications while pregnant.

What’s wrong with topiramate?

Topiramate, brand name Topomax, is sold by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.  It is an antiseizure medication but is also prescribed for weight management, bipolar disorder, and migraines.

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It is a very popular drug that is widely prescribed and has been typically thought to be safe.  This study appeared to contradict that conclusion.

Did study authors manipulate the data? 

In their analysis, the researchers proceeded to manipulate the data by “adjusting” their statistical model to accommodate “confounding variables.”  These variables represent additional factors that might influence the study’s outcome.

The researchers identified confounding variables believed to be associated with both the occurrence of autism diagnoses among infants and the maternal use of seizure medications during pregnancy.  As they made these adjustments, the perceived risks associated with prenatal topiramate use and the heightened likelihood of autism in offspring gradually diminished until they were effectively nullified.

Something isn’t adding up

Children’s Health Defense Chief Scientific Officer Brian Hooker, Ph.D., began to question the findings of the study.  He raised concerns that the data had been manipulated by the researchers in an effort to affect the outcome and show topiramate in a different, less risky light.  It seemed that the researchers had effectively eliminated the previously identified link in their own study and dialed it back to make the drug appear safer than it possibly is.

Hooker began to criticize the researchers’ methodology, suggesting that they could have performed a case-control study to get a clear assessment of the possible relationship between autism and topiramate.  They failed to do that and instead engaged in behavior that suggested they tampered with the data and possibly invalidated their findings.

Researchers need to return to the drawing board and conduct a legitimate study free from agendas and biases.  Until then, we won’t really be able to trust the results given by science that seem to only care about the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

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