Oct 12, 2006    #155
Contact: Noemi Rojas, UMKC public relations
(816) 235-1520

Study proves drug can prevent postpartum bleeding Findings will save the lives of women in poor countries

About half a million women around the world die each year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. A third of those deaths are attributable to postpartum hemorrhage, with 99 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.

A new study conducted by researchers in the United States and India has resulted in findings that misoprostol, a drug used to treat ulcers, is effective in preventing excessive postpartum bleeding. The study was published October 7 in British medical journal The Lancet.

Richard Derman, M.D., M.P.H., a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine, led the American team that tested the drug on women in rural villages in the Belgaum District in Karnataka State in India. The study took place between September 2002 and December 2005.

The study’s findings are significant because misoprostol is less expensive and more convenient compared to injectable oxytocin, which remains the drug of choice for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage in a hospital-based setting.

In developing nations, oxytocin is not practical because it must be kept refrigerated and administered by trained medical professionals. In poor areas, about 50 percent of women give birth at home or in a facility where there is no refrigeration, nor trained medical staff.

Misoprostol does not require refrigeration, costs as little as 14 cents a tablet, and is easy to use for semi-skilled birth attendants.

Like oxytocin, misoprostol stops bleeding in the uterus by causing it to contract.

The study looked at 1,620 women who did not have any serious health problems; 812 received misoprostol and 808 received a placebo. Misoprostol proved to reduce the likelihood of acute postpartum hemorrhage by almost 50 percent. Among those who bled the most (2 pints or more) the likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage reduced by 80 percent.

“One case of postpartum hemorrhage was prevented for every 18 women treated,” said Dr. Derman. “This is a significant study for third world countries where women are severely anemic. There isn’t a lot of leeway before shock sets in on a woman who is anemic and losing much blood after delivery.”

Side effects from misoprostol consisted of shivering and fever. Infants of nursing mothers who took misoprostol showed no side effects.

“The UMKC schools of Medicine and Nursing are committed to the research that improves the health of women,” Betty Drees, M.D., F.A.C.P., dean of the School of Medicine. “This study is an example of the type research programs that UMKC will continue to perform in the university’s new institute for translational research. We want to continue to “translate” research into results that improve lives and health of communities.”

Funding for the study came from the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research, a public-private partnership between NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Dr. Derman’s research has tremendous impact on the lives of women and the well being of families who live in parts of the world where medical resources are inadequate,” John Baumann, Ph.D., vice provost of research at UMKC, said. “The success of this project provides will enhance the research collaboration between the J.N. Medical College in India and UMKC.”

Already, the study’s findings have hit news outlets around the globe: NPR, Medical News Today, Reuters Foundation, Scientific American; as well as media in Australia, India, South Africa, Pennsylvania, Netherlands, Germany.

UMKC, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. It is one of fewer than 30 research universities in the United States with medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy education programs all on one campus. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health and life sciences, and urban affairs.

The UMKC School of Medicine offers a combined baccalaureate/doctor of medicine degree program that admits students out of high school. The school offers residency training in 15 specialties and 19 subspecialty residency programs. It partners with Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, Truman Medical Centers, Western Missouri Mental Health Center and the Kansas City VA Hospital. For more information on the UMKC School of Medicine, visit



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