healthHealth and Medicine

This $3 Drug Could Save The Lives Of 33,000 Mothers Every Single Year


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

100,000 mothers a year die due to PPH. Irina Bg/Shutterstock

Postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH) – excessive post-birth bleeding in the mother – is something many won’t have heard of. It may shock you to know that it’s a worryingly commonplace condition, and every 10 minutes a woman dies because of it. PPH remains the leading cause of maternal death worldwide.

There are various ways to treat this and prevent death from occurring, but they are varyingly effective as PPH can occur for a number of different reasons. Considering that 18 percent of all births feature a significant loss of blood, and blood transfusions are often required to prevent a fatality, it’s a condition that needs a powerful curative, and fast.


Weirdly, as reported by a new study in the Lancet, one may already exist – and it has done so since the 1960s.

Back then, a Japanese medical doctor named Utako Okamoto was working with tranexamic acid, when she found that it was able to stop excessive blood loss from a patient in a variety of ways, including during heavy menstruation and, crucially, for PPH. The extremely male-dominated environment at the Kobe Gakuin University, however, prevented her from being able to persuade anyone to trial the compound.

However, back in 2010-2011, the WOMAN (World Maternal Antifibrinolytic) Trial was launched by researchers across the world – a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled experiment directed by the London School Of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Over 20,000 women were involved in the trial, from high- and low-income countries.

Okamoto died in 2016, but at least she lived to see the start of the long-delayed trial. If she was still around for its conclusion, she would be thrilled to discover that the use of tranexamic acid cuts the risk of death associated with PPH by about a third.


About 100,000 women die annually as a result of PPH. If this drug is given clinical approval, it would mean that, every single year, more than 33,000 mothers would live to see their children grow up.

Explaining PPH. Osmosis via YouTube

A single use of the drug also costs no more than $3, which makes it a truly cost-effective lifesaver. There appear to be no major side-effects, and doctors and midwives can administer other drugs at the same time without complications occurring.

Getting this drug to hospitals in wealthy nations is a fairly easy task, but it becomes a lot more complicated in developing countries where the infrastructure simply isn’t there to effectively manage such a distribution.


However, there are some incredible minds, hardworking communities, dedicated scientists, and venture philanthropists out there that, along with regional governments, will undoubtedly make it work in time. In fact, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation happens to be one of the co-sponsors of the trial, and if anyone knows about saving millions from disease and physical ailments, it’s them.


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