By Ila Ananya
In 2015, India had 45,000 maternal deaths. Post-partum haemorrhage — the excessive loss of blood within the first 24 hours after childbirth — was the leading cause of these deaths, particularly because women lack access to basic healthcare. Now, a new global clinical trial involving 20,000 women across 21 countries, could possibly have found a low-cost drug that could save the lives of one-third of these women.
The drug, tranexamic acid (TXA), essentially stops blood clots from breaking down. It’s widely available — some reports say that it costs about Rs 180 per vial in India — and can reduce maternal deaths due to postpartum haemorrhage when it’s given within three hours of the onset of the bleeding. Guardian reports that the trial was first started to see whether it would help women undergoing hysterectomies.
TXA has so far only been used to control excessive bleeding in cases of trauma, but the study, done by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also found that it reduced the need to perform a surgery to control the bleeding. Reports also say that in the trial, 1.5 percent (155 out of 10,036) women who were given tranexamic acid died from bleeding, while 1.9 percent (191 of 9,985) women who received standard treatment died from bleeding. Essentially, almost 30,000 lives around the world could be saved per year. The finding is particularly important in India, because hospitals usually do not have the resources to deal with post partum bleeding, and a large percentage of women in India are also anaemic, which adds to the problem.
The other fascinating backstory to the drug is that it was in fact created back in the 1960s, by Otako Okamoto, a Japanese medical scientist. Back then, she had tried hard to convince her colleagues to use it to treat postpartum haemorraging. Okamoto passed away last year, but The Telegraph reports that she’d known that such a trial was finally being conducted: “I already know the result,” she had reportedly said.