Childbirth complications are a leading cause of death for women in the Global South. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 130,000 women are killed annually as a result of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). An upcoming clinical trial seeks to curb maternal deaths with the introduction of a new drug that prevents excessive post-childbirth bleeding.
The trial, set to launch in June 2014 by the WHO, will include a sample of 29,000 women from 12 countries. The new drug, developed by Ferring Pharmaceuticals, is a variation of carbetocin, which be stored at room temperature in hot climates. To date, the primary drug used to combat PPH has been oxytocin, which requires refrigeration. This presents a major obstacle for many regions where health facilities are limited, spread out and dependent on erratic electricity.
Finding an easily storable drug to mitigate excessive post-childbirth bleeding has been a major global health challenge for years. Medicines that require cold storage are simply not sustainable for many communities in the Global South. If successful, Ferring’s product has the potential to lessen the everyday threat childbirth poses on women’s lives and thwart thousands of preventable maternal deaths.
The 18 month clinical trial will evaluate the effectiveness of the new drug compared to oxytocin. Pending trial results, WHO will work with Ferring and Merck pharmaceutical companies to explore how to make the drug available cheaply to the poorest and most at-risk countries. All parties appear committed to finding an affordable solution, likely around $1.84 CND, the current cost of one vial of oxytocin. Merck’s involvement is part of its Merck for Mothers project, a 10-year, 500 million dollar initiative designed to tackle maternal mortality resulting from pregnancy and childbirth.
For more information on the WHO clinical trial, click here.
For background on the Merck for Mothers initiative, click here.