A review study conducted on a popular anti-ulcer pill used worldwide for inducing labor and preventing post-delivery bleeding reveals that it is equally effective// as the other expensive drugs. Researchers have however urged that the drug must be used with caution.
The pill – a prostaglandin known generically as misoprostol and sold as Cytotec – is used primarily for treatment of peptic ulcers and is not approved for use in pregnant woman in most countries, including the United States. However, because of the convenience of oral dosing compared to standard vaginal or cervical treatments to speed delivery, 'off-label' use is common in many countries.
'Due to the limited evidence about the safety, oral misoprostol should be used with caution for the induction of labor,' said authors Dr. Zarko Alfirevic and Dr. Andrew Weeks, both obstetricians at England's University of Liverpool.
Legal liability, as well as safety concerns, make use of misoprostol problematic 'because of a relatively high rate of uterine hyperstimulation and the lack of appropriate dose ranging studies,' they said.
However, the authors acknowledged that other approved drugs are expensive and must be refrigerated, whereas misoprostol is relatively cheap and can be stored at room temperature. Off-label use is thus especially attractive in developing countries and is likely to continue.
'In those situations, clinicians should use as low a dose as possible and report serious adverse outcomes,' say the authors. They recommend a maximum dose of 50 mcg. Higher doses could lead to tearing of the uterus, which could be life-threatening to both mother and fetus.
The history of misoprostol use for induction of labor in full-term pregnancies has been complicated by the fact that the drug is also used for termination of first-trimester pregnancies, routinely used in combination with RU-486, the so-called 'morning after' abortion pill.
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