Health Trial could fast-track medicine to prevent death during childbirth

Trial could fast-track medicine to prevent death during childbirth

A new, inhaled form of a medicine used to prevent women dying in childbirth has shown positive results in the first in-human trials.

Researchers from the Monash University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) say the medicine could significantly reduce maternal deaths around the world.

Every year, more than 300,000 women in low and low-middle income countries die during pregnancy and childbirth. Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is the single largest cause of these deaths.

PPH can be prevented by administering a drug called oxytocin, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation and is widely used in wealthy countries. However, as an injection, oxytocin requires refrigeration and a skilled medical professional to administer it safely. In low and low-middle income countries this is often not possible.

To address this unmet need, researchers at MIPS, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline in London, have been developing an inhalable, dry-powder form of oxytocin.

Their study demonstrated, in a small group of non-pregnant female volunteers, that the effects of inhaled oxytocin on the body are not meaningfully different from its injected counterpart. This gives confidence that the inhaled form of oxytocin will deliver similar effects in prevention of PPH when given to mothers immediately after giving birth.

Associate Professor Michelle McIntosh, Project Leader at MIPS, said this first in-human data offers hope to the many women who do not currently have access to this essential medicine.

“These results show that oxytocin can be delivered similarly via inhalation or injection and therefore we are less likely to be required to conduct the extensive and costly trials needed for an entirely new drug,” Associate Professor McIntosh said.

“Instead, we should be able to move forward with trials on a much smaller scale, featuring patients numbering in the hundreds rather than tens of thousands, potentially making the medicine available much sooner,”

Read more about this important drug trial here. Story credit: Monash University newsroom.

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