A new formula for a drug to prevent postpartum hemorrhage could save thousands of lives in low- and middle-income countries, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study released today.
“For years, the medical community has been looking for a drug that is not susceptible to heat, that is stable and effective at high temperatures, and now we have a candidate,” said Metin Gulmezoglu, WHO’s maternal health coordinator. “The results of the study could not be better. We have the opportunity to save tens of thousands of lives in the poorest countries,” he added.
The new drug is called “Carbetocin” and is formulated in such a way that it can withstand temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius and 75% relative humidity without being damaged for three years, a critical aspect for use in depressed areas and without access to a refrigerator.
Oxytocin has traditionally been used to fight postpartum hemorrhage, but this drug must be kept at a stable temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius when it is transported and stored, something that is eminently impossible in many underdeveloped countries.
Postpartum hemorrhage kills about 70,000 women each year, according to the WHO
Each year, approximately 70,000 women worldwide die from postpartum hemorrhage. Given the results of the study, the WHO believes they will recommend the use of “Carbetocin” to tackle post-partum hemorrhage in September.
Both oxytocin and carbetocin molecules are very similar, so they have very similar effects, only that the new drug is not susceptible to temperature changes.
“The idea is to recommend it as a preventive method, not as a treatment, because it has been shown that if the product is inoculated into the mother within the first few minutes after delivery, the chances of hemorrhaging are reduced by 40 to 50 percent,” Gulmezoglu said.
WHO now recommends administering oxytocin after delivery, to all women, something that will not change with the inclusion of the new remedy.
The study was based on a clinical trial on about 30,000 women, the largest of its kind ever conducted, and involved women in 23 locations in ten countries, including Argentina, India, Singapore, Thailand, and United Kingdom.
For now, “Carbetocin” is only authorized for use in clinical trials, so the next step after the successful results is to license and regulate its use for postpartum hemorrhage, says the WHO.