Ulcer pill hope for childbirth deaths

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The Independent Online
The lives of 250,000 women who die in childbirth around the world each year could be saved by a treatment being developed at a London teaching hospital.

A report published today suggests that all mothers could be given a pill to reduce blood loss after childbirth, instead of the injection that they currently receive. The research has huge implications for the Third World, where most of the maternal deaths occur.

The new pill, which uses an old drug originally developed to treat peptic ulcers, is just as effective as the injection at reducing bleeding, but can be more easily stored in hot climates and does not carry an infection risk from dirty needles.

The pill could also improve childbirth in the UK because it appears to cause fewer side effects than the injection which can cause nausea, vomiting and raised blood pressure.

"In this pill, we seem to have an easy to administer, easy to store and safe to take precaution against haemorrhage following childbirth. It could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women across the world," said Dr Hazim el Refaey, a senior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at University College London Hospitals, who conducted the research, published today in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Following Dr Refaey's study of 250 expectant women in London the World Health Organisation is to run a trial comparing the two drugs on 20,000 women in eight countries, including China, Vietnam, Egypt, Ireland, South Africa and the UK. It is expected to start in September and last 12-18 months.

Janet Gilbert, 38, from Highbury, north London, who took part in the research at University College London Hospitals, found the pill "infinitely preferable" to the injection. "The tablet was much better. Not having to cope with being physically sick was wonderful. Emotionally it was much easier to deal with," she said.

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