10 November 2017

Africa: Commonly Used Drug May Be Key to Stopping Thousands of Mothers Dying

Roughly every six minutes, a woman somewhere in the world bleeds to death in child birth. But a new medical trial shows that there is a way of combating the problem.

The trial has found that a simple drug called tranexamic acid, a blood clot stabiliser first discovered in Japan in the 1950s, could cut deaths from bleeding by a third if given to women within three hours.

In London this week, experts on the issue of what the medical community calls “post-partum haemorrhage” (PPH) met to highlight the trial's findings and to discuss how to promote the use of the drug.

The event took place at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, which hosts the collaboration known as the WOMAN Trial.

PPH is the leading cause of maternal death globally. It kills about 100,000 women, mostly in low and middle income countries.

Philanthropist Toyin Saraki, the founding president of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and an ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, told the meeting that the risk of death in childbirth remains “painstakingly high” in sub-Saharan Africa.

“In Nigeria, for example, the country of my birth, a woman incurs a one in 23 risk of dying during childbirth in her lifetime,” she said.

“In Chad, with the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, this figure is closer to one in 17. It is countries such as these that can benefit the most from tranexamic acid.”

Saraki said the use of a “cheap and effective” drug such as tranexamic acid could constitute “a significant step closer to fair and equal maternal care around the world...

“If administered across Africa, the health outcomes would be immense and would lead to lives of thousands of women across Africa being saved.”

But, she added, this will not be easily achieved.  To read her assessment of what needs to happen, read the full text of her address.

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