A UK-first report into the state of pregnancy medicine, which was co-commissioned by Professor Anna David (UCL EGA Institute for Women’s Health), has proposed a clear roadmap to help reduce the high number of needless newborn deaths and improve maternal health.
The Healthy Mum, Healthy baby, Healthy Future: The Case for UK Leadership in the Development of Safe, Effective and Accessible Medicines for Use in Pregnancy report was commissioned by leading figures from charity, healthcare, industry, law and academia and outlines a collaborative vision for UK leadership to improve the health of mothers and their babies.
Globally, over 800 women and 12,000 newborns die every day from preventable pregnancy-related complications - the equivalent to one woman and 17 babies every 2 minutes.
Nevertheless, only two medicines have ever been developed specifically for pregnancy-related conditions, and not a single new medicine for some of the most serious pregnancy-specific conditions has reached women in decades.
Over the past year, Professor David has been part of a Birmingham Health Partners led Policy Commission - co-chaired by Baroness Manningham-Buller, Co-president of Chatham House and Professor Peter Brocklehurst, University of Birmingham.
The group heard from key stakeholders on how best to develop safe, effective and accessible medicines for use in pregnancy. The evidence gathered has informed eight critical recommendations which, if implemented by government, will successfully prevent needless deaths and find new therapeutics to treat life-threatening conditions affecting mothers and their babies.
Key proposals included strengthening the UK’s research capabilities to address gaps in our biological knowledge; more effective clinical trials support; and harnessing collaborative partnerships between government, universities and the pharmaceutical industry.
Importantly, the report advocates for women who have been historically excluded from clinical trials to be a vital part of future research, ensuring they are not left behind and can benefit from modern medical advances.
Professor Anna David, said: "At UCL’s EGA Institute for Women’s Health we are developing new drugs for diseases in pregnancy. This report does a deep dive into the reasons behind the lack of investment in drugs in pregnancy and purposes some tangible solutions to improve outcomes for mums and babies."
Co-chair, Baroness Manningham-Buller LG, DCB, FMedSci said: "When I was asked to become joint chair of the Commission that has produced this report, I am ashamed to say that I wasn’t aware that there was an acute problem.
"Despite being at Wellcome for 12 years and Imperial College for six, I had no idea that research into conception and pregnancy was largely neglected and that virtually no drugs had been developed and trialled for pregnant women in the many decades since thalidomide. This leaves women at the mercy both of general diseases, the diseases of pregnancy and drugs which are usually unlicensed.
"The evidence taken by the Commission in its inquiry convinces us that this urgently needs to change. We suggest how."
Sandra Igwe, founder of The Motherhood Group and Co-chair of the National Inquiry into Racial Injustice in Maternity Care welcomed the report by saying: "Giving a voice back to those who are ultimately the most affected is crucial, and an imperative step for us mothers advocating for ourselves. All women, regardless of race, age, and socioeconomic background should be allowed to have safe and effective medicine during their pregnancy.
"It’s key in building trust, offers more choice, and lowers potential health risks - a springboard in the right direction. These recommendations will specifically further help women, like me, who due to the colour of our skin, face health inequalities within maternity care."