Merck and WHO Partner to Curb Postpartum Hemorrhage Deaths

Earlier this month I wrote about Uganda’s move to use misoprostol for women who experience postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) during childbirth or immediately after delivery. PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality for women around the world. 800 women die every day from complications during pregnancy and delivery; that is two mothers a minute.

Misoprostol, it has been found, is effective because it will stop a woman’s bleeding, can be taken in pill form and can be stored at hotter temperatures. Oxytocin, which is the gold standard for stopping PPH must be stored in cold temperatures to be effective. However, in low-resource settings electricity can be touch and go or altogether nonexistent.

Last year Merck announced that they have partnered with the World Health Organization as well as Ferring Pharmaceuticals to test the efficacy in clinical trials of using carbetocin, another medication that can stop PPH, but can be stored in hot and tropical environments.

The clinical trials began this year in 12 countries that included 29,000 women. Through its Merck for Mothers initiative, Merck has partnered with organizations in the United States and abroad to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

“Mothers hold the future in their hands. That’s why Merck has taken on our 10-year, $500 million fight against maternal mortality,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, Merck, in a statement. “Working with our partners, we can help make a better solution a reality. It would be a real breakthrough to help prevent the number-one cause of women dying in childbirth in the most vulnerable parts of the globe.”

Ferring Pharmaceticals, based in Switzerland, originally developed carbetocin over ten years ago.

“Ferring is delighted to join with the WHO and Merck in this project that aims to make the benefits of carbetocin available in areas of the world where cold storage is not readily available,” said Michel L. Pettigrew, President of the Executive Board and COO, Ferring Group.

There have been many worldwide studies to compare the efficacy of oxytocin versus carbetocin. If the World Health Organization finds that carbetocin is as effective as oxytocin, Merck, WHO, and Ferring have each committed to ensuring carebetocin will be widely available in countries with the most maternal deaths at an affordable cost.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Correction: The post was edited to show that clinical trials began this year.

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