WHO discovers a better drug to prevent excessive bleeding after birth

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A new drug trial study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with MSD for Mothers and Ferring Pharmaceuticals suggests that alternative drug carbetocin is effective at preventing excessive bleeding after birth.


Currently, the World Health Organization recommends oxytocin as the first-choice drug for preventing excessive bleeding after childbirth.

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Oxytocin, however, must be stored and transported at 2–8 degrees Celsius, which is hard to do, in many countries, depriving many women of access to this lifesaving drug. When they can obtain it, the drug may be less effective because of heat exposure.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown heat-stable carbetocin to be as safe and effective as oxytocin in preventing postpartum haemorrhage.

The new formulation- carbetocin does not require refrigeration and retains its efficacy for at least 3 years stored at 30 degrees celsius and 75% relative humidity.

“This is a truly encouraging new development that can revolutionize our ability to keep mothers and babies alive,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

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According to the WHO, approximately 70 000 women die every year because of post-partum haemorrhage – increasing the risk that their babies also die within one month.

“The development of a drug to prevent postpartum haemorrhage that continues to remain effective in hot and humid conditions is very good news for the millions of women who give birth in parts of the world without access to reliable refrigeration,” says Dr Metin Gülmezoglu, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.

The WHO noted that the clinical trial being the largest of its kind, studied close to 30 000 women who gave birth vaginally in 10 countries: Argentina, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

It added that the positive results obtained from the trial will gear the parties to work now to advance affordable access to this lifesaving drug in countries that have a high burden of maternal deaths.

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Also, the WHO said it will will ask its Guideline Development Group to consider whether heat-stable carbetocin should be a recommended drug for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage.

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