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Drug proves highly effective in preventing postpartum bleeding

Drug proves highly effective in preventing postpartum bleeding

A drug normally used to treat ulcers was effective in preventing excessive postpartum bleeding for women in poor areas _ a discovery that may save the lives of thousands who die annually from complications of childbirth, a British medical journal reported Friday.
The study, which appeared in The Lancet, showed the drug, misoprostol, reduced the likelihood of having such hemorrhages by 50 percent over the three-year period during which the research was conducted in rural India.
An estimated 500,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy and childbirth _ and the most common cause of death is postpartum bleeding.
"This trial offers a very dramatic proof of an opportunity to reduce this toll on women's lives," said Nancy Moss, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who oversaw the study. "When mothers die in the developing world or in low-resource settings, children often die as well. ... So we're saving not only mother's lives, we're saving children's lives as well."
In developed countries, where most births take place in hospitals and emergency care is available, deaths from such hemorrhages are rare.
But in rural India, where the study was conducted between September 2002 and December 2005, about half of all births occur without a doctor, and poor families often lack the means and the transport to take a woman to the hospital in an emergency.
The estimated maternal death rate in India is 407 per 100,000 births, with postpartum hemorrhage responsible for about 30 percent of those fatalities, the study said. In the United States, that number is about 10 per 100,000, with such hemorrhages accounting for only 17 percent of the deaths.
Though other, more expensive drugs are used to prevent excessive bleeding in the developed world, misoprostol costs as little as 14 cents per pill and requires no refrigeration and no special training to administer.
The drug stops bleeding in the uterus by causing it to contract.
"In areas where access to care is so limited, we need to look to other methods to prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage," said Dr. Kirsten Cleary, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University who was not involved in the study. "This seems like a really viable one."
The study involved 1,620 women in rural India. About half received the drug, while the other half received a placebo.
Those who took misoprostol were 50 percent less likely to experience acute hemorrhage _ which the study defined as about one to two pints (500 milliliters to 1,000 milliliters) of blood.
"Saving five out of 10? That's a big number," said Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, of the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Al-Khan, the hospital's director of perinatal diagnostics and therapeutics, was not involved in the study.
The study was funded by the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health research, a partnership between the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Researchers from the University of Missouri, India's Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and the NIH participated.


Updated : 2021-02-27 21:31 GMT+08:00