Women and babies in the UK are “dying needlessly” because of a lack of suitable medicines to use in pregnancy, according to a report that calls for a radical overhaul of maternal health.
A “profound” shortage of research and the widespread exclusion of pregnant and breastfeeding women from clinical trials means hardly any new drugs are approved for common medical problems in pregnancy or soon after childbirth, the report finds.
Meanwhile, scarce or contradictory information about the safety of existing medicines women may be taking for continuing conditions can make it impossible to reach a confident decision on whether or not to continue them in pregnancy, the experts add.
“While pregnancy in the UK is generally considered safe, women and babies are still dying needlessly as a direct result of preventable pregnancy complications,” the authors say. Each year, 5,000 babies in the UK are either stillborn or die shortly after birth, while about 70 women die of complications in pregnancy.
The Healthy Mum, Healthy Baby, Healthy Future report draws on evidence from patient groups, clinicians, researchers, lawyers, insurance specialists and the pharmaceutical industry, it proposes “urgent” changes to transform women’s access to modern medicine.
The report highlights the “profound lack of research activity” and up-to-date information that leaves pregnant women and their physicians in the dark about whether to continue with certain medicines in pregnancy. Some epilepsy drugs, for example, can increase the risk of birth defects, but coming off them can put the woman at risk of severe seizures, which can also harm the baby.
Lady Manningham-Buller said the situation “urgently needs to change”, with the report setting out eight recommendations to prevent needless deaths.
Source: The Guardian, 12 May 2022