Monash University researchers are on track to develop a product that could save the lives of tens of thousands of pregnant women globally.
Postpartum haemorrhage is a condition that kills an estimated 60,000 women annually in low-income countries. Tragically, it’s mostly preventable.
“The need for a treatment for these women is urgent,” researcher Professor Michelle McIntosh said.
Professor McIntosh heads a specialist research team at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences that’s adapting an existing treatment for use in low-income countries and remote areas.
Oxytocin causes the muscles of the uterus to contract, stemming blood loss after childbirth. It’s administered as an injection, but isn’t available to women in areas lacking the refrigeration needed to preserve the life-saving treatment, and the healthcare staff to administer it.
The Monash researchers are testing a way of delivering oxytocin as an inhaled powder, absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. It’s heatstable, affordable, simple to use, and can be administered by people with less medical training than is needed to administer the injection. The work was praised at a meeting of major funding agencies in 2011 by then-US secretary of state Hilary Clinton as potentially “transformational” in maternal healthcare.
Professor McIntosh said that without philanthropic support, the researchers wouldn’t have been able to generate the proof-of-concept data needed to move to Phase 3 trials. The initial research received philanthropic support from the McCall MacBain Foundation, the Planet Wheeler Foundation and hundreds of Monash alumni and donors.
“We’re looking at implementation strategies and identifying which countries and different regions would be likely to adopt it early,” she said.
“We want a product that is adopted by many countries. Ultimately, it will help keep families together and allow communities to continue to thrive.”
The Monash Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is among the top three in the world and has more highly cited researchers than any other Monash faculty. The world-leading research spans drug discovery, drug optimisation, medicinal chemistry, and the safe and effective use of medicine.
A call of thanks
The Inhaled Oxytocin Project would not be possible without our alumni, who give to the Monash Phone Appeal. These vital donations enable our research team to work directly with community leaders and health professionals in countries where mothers and babies are most at risk from the devastating affects of postpartum haemorrhage.