Published: Sat, July 28, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Qld researchers pause study using Viagra to reduce foetal distress

Qld researchers pause study using Viagra to reduce foetal distress

There are more than a dozen women who were prescribed drugs before the trial was halted who are waiting to see if the drug had an adverse effect on their pregnancy.

"The chance of lung disease appears to be greater, and also the chance of death following the birth seems to be increased", said a letter sent to the parents involved, according to Hart van Nederland, a Dutch TV programme. "All the women concerned are accompanied to the extent possible by the doctors involved in the study".

Now that it's no longer under patent, the drug is being explored by research companies as a wonder drug for a range of other conditions. The research, which was earlier conducted on rats, gave the impression that the drug would improve blood flow in the placenta on these women whose organs were underperforming.

In comparison, nine babies born to women treated with the placebo died, but none of them had the lung disorder. It said researchers expected all such usage of the drug to be stopped and that further research should examine the effects and safety of the substance when used in pregnancy.

Professor Zarko Alfirevic from the University of Liverpool, who led part of the United Kingdom research into sildenafil in pregnancy, said that the findings in the Dutch study were "unexpected".

Of the 90 women in a control group who took a placebo, three had children who developed the same lung issues, but no babies died from conditions that could be linked to sildenafil. The Australian study was different to the Dutch study.

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The Dutch trial was created to investigate whether Viagra was useful in promoting the growth of severely underdeveloped babies in the womb. It can lead to stillbirth or neonatal death, and babies that survive are still at higher risk for infections and often suffer from long-term problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The outcome has been tragic in human tests carried out at several hospitals across the Netherlands by the Amsterdam University Medical Centre.

The women who participated in the trial were all carrying unborn babies whose growth was inhibited. The drug dilates the blood vessels.

Prior to the experiments, the growth of each of the unborn babies was found to be limited and the prognosis viewed as poor.

A spokesman for Amsterdam UMC said it believed the trial had been conducted properly, but would expect an external investigation to be launched. The doctors decided that the child would be better to stay and develop inside the mother.

Trials in the UK, Australia and New Zealand in 2012 had found no benefit from the drug, but also no side effects. The 93 women who were selected for the study had compromised placenta, which were underperforming.

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