Low cost drug can reduce maternal deaths by a third

Wednesday 31 May 2017

WOMAN trial

A cheap and widely available drug called Tranexamic Acid (TXA) reduces death due to bleeding after childbirth by nearly one third, according to a major study published in The Lancet.

The global trial of 20,000 women treated in 193 hospitals in 21 different countries found that death due to bleeding was reduced by 31% if the treatment was given within three hours. It also showed there were no adverse effects for mother or baby due to the use of TXA.

A total of 18 women from the Maternity Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital took part in the study.

Consultant Obstetrician Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim and haematology Consultant Professor Beverley Hunt, who both have academic roles at King’s College London, were trial collaborators and co-authors of the WOMAN trial.

Severe bleeding after childbirth (known as post-partum haemorrhage) is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide. More than 100,000 women globally die each year from the condition. Most of the deaths occur soon after giving birth and almost all (99%) occur in low-income and middle-income countries.

Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim said: “I am so pleased that St Thomas’ patients contributed to this important study and its findings show how our research can really make a difference to maternal health across the world.

“The findings provide robust evidence that early use of TXA will save lives.”

The drug investigated in the study, TXA, works by stopping blood clots from breaking down too quickly which helps to reduce excessive bleeding. The findings also show it reduced the need for urgent surgery to control bleeding (laparotomy) by more than a third (36%).

The study was funded by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Pfizer, UK Department of Health, Wellcome Trust, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Last updated: March 2022

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