A report on our visit to India

Dr Victoria Oliver

In October this year I was fortunate enough to travel to Lucknow in the North of India as part of my role as a post-doctoral researcher at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

As part of our work to develop an oxytocin dry powder inhaler, it was essential for us to understand the environment, cultural beliefs and end users that our product is designed for. Over five days we met with a variety of people from many levels of the healthcare system; from the Dean of Public Health  a Medical College in Lucknow, to women living in rural communities 70 km out of the city. We gathered a wealth of information about the current medical practices for the prevention and treatment of postpartum haemorrhage and learnt some interesting things about cultural attitudes towards childbirth and  the acceptability of inhalation as a method of drug delivery.

The degree of variation in facilities and medical practices across the Lucknow area was remarkable. We visited a healthcare centre with cold storage of oxytocin and standard practices for its use to prevent postpartum haemorrhage. In contrast, a healthcare centre no more than 200m next door had no refrigeration  facilities and did not appear to employ any strategies for the active management of the third stage of labour. This disparity highlighted the benefits of an oxytocin product that is heat stable and simple to administer.

It was most surprising for us to learn of the attitudes towards bleeding and childbirth, particularly of people living in rural areas. In these communities, bleeding is considered an essential part of childbirth and is promoted for as long as 2 weeks following delivery. So understandably, our description  of a product that can be used to stop the bleeding was met with uneasiness from women in the community. This in itself was a vital piece of knowledge and highlighted that the introduction of our product will need to be done with careful consideration for these cultural beliefs.

Overall, the trip was a hugely rewarding and informative experience. In less than one week we gained several important insights that will aid our decision-making process as we continue to develop inhaled oxytocin. From a personal stand point I found the time we spent in India to be incredibly gratifying.  Working on a project like this that aims to drastically improve healthcare in the areas which need it most, is in itself a fulfilling experience. However, to have the opportunity to meet the people who could potentially benefit from our work and get a sneak peak at the steps that are being taken to progress  our bench research into a bedside outcome, was both rewarding and motivating. I am extremely grateful for the financial support from donors to the Victorian College of Pharmacy 2012 annual appeal that has made this experience possible.

Dr Victoria Oliver

Read about Victoria and the Oxytocin team.

See pictures from Victoria's trip on Flickr.

Find out more about the project by watching Michelle McIntosh's recent presentation for the NHMRC translational research symposium.

Support the "Saving Lives at Birth” project.