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NYT: "I.Q. Harmed by Epilepsy Drug in Utero"
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April 16, 2009, 02:27 PM
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The New York Times reports on an apparent nasty side effect of an epilepsy drug, with this lead-in from the NYTimes.com home page: "Lower I.Q. in Children Linked to Mother’s Use of Epilepsy Drug:"
Three-year-olds whose mothers had taken valproate during pregnancy had I.Q. scores that were nine points lower on average than children whose mothers had taken a different antiseizure medication, lamotrigine. The I.Q. scores of toddlers whose mothers took valproate were also lower than scores of children whose mothers took two other antiseizure medications, phenytoin and carbamazepine. ...

Cognitive assessments were conducted in 258 2- and 3-year-olds born to 252 mothers, of whom 53 had taken valproate.

Over all, children’s I.Q. scores were strongly related to mothers’ I.Q. scores, except among the children of mothers treated with valproate [generic name Depakote], the study found.

At age 3, children exposed to valproate in utero had a mean I.Q. of 92, compared to 101 for children exposed to lamotrigine, 99 for those exposed to phenytoin, and 98 for those exposed to carbamazepine, the study found.

Have you ever noticed how in the New York Times` universe, IQ is unquestionably valid and terribly, terribly important in the Health section of the newspaper? (See, for example, the NYT`s recurrent coverage of the effects of the exposure to lead in reducing I.Q.)

In this Health section article, for example, the Times is getting worked up over an IQ test given to 2-3 year olds, which is pushing the age limits of IQ testing. And the sample size is only 53. And yet, there`s absolutely zero quibbling about the usefulness of IQ testing in this article. It`s simply assumed that, of course, everybody knows that a difference in average IQ scores of about eight points is a big deal.

Yet, in the Education section of the Times, where you might think IQ would be even more relevant, it rarely comes up. And when it does put in an unwelcome appearance, it is often dismissed as discredited.

And here`s the headline in the Washington Post, "Epilepsy Drug in Pregnancy May Lower Child`s IQ," which links to the AP`s article by Mike Stobbe. It too simply assumes that IQ is a valid and important thing.