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November 14, 2002



Emory University School of Medicine has been chosen one of eleven institutions in the United States to receive a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the umbrella of the Specialized Centers of Research on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women's Health (SCOR).

The Emory center grant will be led by Zachary Stowe, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Women's Mental Health Program. The center grant will represent a broad collaborative effort with faculty from Emory, Medical University of South Carolina, and community based clinicians to study the metabolism of psychiatric and anti-epileptic medications during pregnancy and to determine baby's exposure to medications.

The Emory SCOR will study the effects of depression, psychosis, and other neurological illnesses such as epilepsy and Tourette's syndrome during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Medications such as anti-depressants, anti-epileptic drugs, and over-the-counter medications will be investigated with respect to determining the baby's exposure to these medications and the options for reducing baby's exposure.

"This will be the largest prospective study ever done to determine what pattern of medical exposure may contribute to birth outcomes," said Dr. Stowe. "Doctors have begun to realize that it is potentially dangerous to leave an expectant mother untreated if she is suffering from psychiatric or neurological disorders. We have an obligation to both the mother and the unborn child to find the most effective means to treat the mother's illness, while minimizing risk for potential problems down the road."

Drs. Stowe and Owens in Psychiatry will be joined by Dr. Page Pennell in Neurology, Dr. James C. Ritchie in Pathology, with collaborative efforts involving obstetrician/gynecologists, geneticists and pediatricians during the five-year study. "Once we have the exposure data, we will extend the study to include testing the infants to determine the impact of the medication and/or illness exposure." said Stowe.

Screening should be underway in the next few months. Dr. Stowe and his team will be looking for 400-500 women to participate in the study.

"This is the first congressional award of its kind for women's health. In addition to determining what currently approved medications cross the placenta from the mother's bloodstream into that of the fetus and potentially cause problems, we will be able to use this data to create new and better medications," said Dr. Stowe. "I am delighted to be involved in the process."

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