The studies in pregnant women, specifically regarding how drugs transport themselves across the placenta and to the fetus, have been rare and inadequate. But, this knowledge could prove to be extremely vital in not only preserving the life of a fetus, but also in ensuring that such life is a healthy one. A recent laboratory study performed by Tomo Nabekura, PhD is assessing that risk and focusing on how certain medications taken together could increase the risk for birth defects or stunt fetal growth due to dangerous interactions inside the placenta.
In this study, mothers taking anti-hepatitis C and/or anti-HIV drugs as well as antihypertensives or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) were closely analyzed. The research was already published in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society of Microbiology.
In animal-based studies, investigators had already shown that NSAIDs can lead to birth defects and that antihypertensives may stunt fetal growth. In the new study, the antiviral medications inhibited transport of two surrogate drugs across the cells. These surrogate drugs are compounds that interact with the trans-placental transporter proteins, but are not used as actual drugs. By creating a competitive inhibition, researchers believe that women taking these medications together could suffer from dangerous accumulations in the fetus’ circulation – leading to damage to the fetus directly. The drugs on their own have not been shown to harm the fetus – instead, they only become dangerous in combination with one another.
Because there is such limited information as to how medications cross or do not cross into the placenta, this study only further showed that there is a drastic need for such research. Investigators need to conduct more vivo pharmacokinetic studies of drug transfers inside the developing fetus and see how those drug interactions affect it.
Women and men across the country each year are harmed due to dangerous drug interactions. This often occurs when a physician fails to consult a patient’s medical history and current list of medications (including over-the-counter medications) before prescribing another prescription. Drug interactions can lead to adverse effects and in some cases, they could be fatal.
It is important that companies and independent researchers further assess the potential injuries that these drugs on the market could cause – especially when it comes to impacting the number of birth defects in the United States.
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