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Valproate and Neuroendocrine Changes in Relation to Women Treated for Epilepsy and Bipolar Disorder: A Review

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Valproic acid (2-n-propylpentanoic acid, VPA) is well-established as a mood-stabilizer for bipolar disorder, in addition to its application as a treatment in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, migraine headaches, and chronic neuropathic pain. Its mechanisms of actions in any of the disorders have not yet been fully elucidated but currently include GABA-ergic inhibitory effects, the suppression of NMDA-mediated excitatory neurotransmission, and possibly effects on monoamines and cerebral glucose metabolism. Given the rising use of VPA by women of reproductive age for various conditions it is increasingly important to understand how VPA affects reproductive and metabolic function in women, yet a number of key issues regarding VPA use in women of reproductive age remain unclear. These include the question of whether VPA use is associated with the development of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)-like features (such as elevated androgen concentrations and/or chronic anovulation). The metabolic effects of VPA use, particularly on insulin sensitivity and weight gain, are also important to understand. Lastly, questions of VPA use during pregnancy and lactation require continued attention. This article reviews the current understanding of VPA's mechanisms of action, effects on the reproductive and metabolic system, and teratogenic qualities, highlighting important future areas of study.
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Keywords: PCOS; Valproate; anovulation; bipolar disorder; hyperandrogenemia; insulin resistance; menstrual abnormalities; reproductive dysfunction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Yale University School of Medicine, 367 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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