New drug could prevent thousands of deaths during childbirth

New drug could prevent thousands of deaths during childbirth

A study partly led by the World Health Organisation has found that a new drug could save the lives of thousands of mothers in low and middle income countries.

Currently excessive bleeding (post-partum haemorrhage) in childbirth kills around 70,000 mothers a year, predominantly in low and middle income countries, with the primary medical solution being Oxytocin which must be kept cold.

However, the study found a new drug, Carbetocin, which can be stored at room temperature could be an equally effective treatment.

The study was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine and found that Carbetocin is as effective as Oxytocic and remains effective in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity. Similarly, the drug retains its effectiveness for at least

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted:

“This is a truly encouraging new development that can revolutionize our ability to keep mothers and babies alive”

Oxytocin must be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which can be a significant challenge for many countries. Similarly, if women are able to obtain the drug it is often made ineffective in high temperatures.

Post-partum haemorrhage is a significant health issue as babies whose mother has died from the complication also experience an increase risk of death in the month following their birth.

The drug trial studied 30,000 women in Argentina, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

Following the birth, each women was injected with either heat-stable Carbetocin or Oxytocin, revealing the equal effectiveness of both drugs.

Metin Gülmezoglu of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research commented:

“The development of a drug to prevent postpartum haemorrhage that continues to remain effective in hot and humid conditions is very good news for the millions of women who give birth in parts of the world without access to reliable refrigeration”

Carbetocin will enter the process of approval for use outside of trials, which will begin with a regulatory review, countries’ approval and then consideration by WHO’s Guideline Development Group.


Healthcare challenges and innovations will be a key discussion point at the upcoming AIDF Global Summit taking place on 5-6 September in Washington D.C, USA. You can view the full agenda here.

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