New drug formulation could be the key to significantly reducing maternal mortality

Alyssa GovindanNews Around Global Health

About 70,000 women die annually from post-partum hemorrhaging. It is the leading cause of maternal mortality in low-income countries. Hemorrhaging also increases the risk of newborns dying during their first month of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends the drug Oxytocin to prevent excessive bleeding after childbirth. However, Oxytocin must be stored and transported at a specific temperature which is difficult to maintain in low-resource settings. Women in low-income countries often do not have access to the drug, and when they do, it can be ineffective due to heat exposure.

However, a new drug formulation to prevent post-partum bleeding is providing hope. In a recent study by the WHO, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and MSD, a new drug was tested on 30,000 women in 10 countries who were given either the new drug or Oxytocin. The study found that both drugs were equally effective.

The new drug does not require refrigeration and maintains efficacy for 3 years even when stored at 30 degrees Celsius and 75% relative humidity – properties that make it much easier to transport and store in lower-income countries.

Although the newly formulated drug must continue to undergo regulatory review, this study is a potential step forward in saving thousands of women’s lives.

photo credit: World Bank

Alyssa GovindanNew drug formulation could be the key to significantly reducing maternal mortality