Pregnancy-- a pharma free wasteland

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Sydney, Jan 22 (UNI) Lack of safe medication for unborn babies is forcing expecting mothers to take potentially dangerous drugs leading to a mounting number of maternal and pre-natal deaths, experts warn.

A major review of international drug development has labelled pregnancy ''a pharma-free wasteland, with virtually no new drugs on the horizon''.

Lead researcher Nicholas Fisk blamed the drug dearth on the expense of reproductive trials and major disasters like thalidomide, a German drug responsible for severe deformities in 10,000 babies born during '50s and '60s.

There are over half a million maternal and seven million perinatal deaths annually, 99 per cent of which are in the developing world.

The study published in PLoS Medicine journal revealed that women needing drugs for pregnancy, labour or abortion resorted to ''off-licence medications'' that have not been officially tested for the use.

''The market has failed pregnant women,'' Dr Fisk said, adding seventy five per cent of pregnant women were taking at least one drug for which safety data were not available.

The shocking researching found that only 17 of the 37,000 drugs under development worldwide since 1981 were for maternal health indications.

The problem stemmed from failures in the pharmaceutical market's push and pull mechanisms, whereby funding to encourage investment from universities and companies is balanced by funding to purchase drugs once they are on the market.

''Between the pull and the push, the international donor agencies have forgotten these women,'' the researcher said.

Pharmaceutical companies were reluctant to test and develop drugs in pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects and litigation costs that come with it, the specialists said.

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