Each year 150,000 women, mostly in developing countries, die due to postpartum haemorrhaging – one quarter of all maternal deaths worldwide.
The condition can be prevented with the administration of the correct medication. The most common drug used to treat postpartum haemorrhage is Oxytocin, which is given via injection. However, the medication in its current form is effective but it is difficult to transport, store and administer in countries, which are resource-poor.
Dr Michelle McIntosh, Dr Richard Prankerd and Dr David Morton will use the $100,000 ‘Grand Challenges Exploration Grant’ to develop a novel aerosol delivery system for Oxytocin that can be inhaled by patients from a simple disposable device immediately after childbirth.
Dr McIntosh said the approach will remove the need for sterile conditions and refrigerated storage of medications.
“In developing countries it is often not possible to provide sterile equipment, clean water or trained medical personnel during child birth and the existing injectable formulation needs electricity for refrigerated conditions to prevent drug degradation,” Dr McIntosh said.
“The additional benefit of an aerosol delivery system is the elimination of the risk needle-stick injuries, transmission of blood-borne viruses and the costs associated with the disposal of sharps and biohazard waste materials.”
Scientists have known for some time that Oxytocin can be delivered via the lining of the nose and mouth but because the injection-form of the medication was widely adopted, there has been little research done to develop technologies and find out potentially better ways of administering the drug.
“Oxytocin is an ideal candidate for delivery via the lungs. It is a highly potent drug so only a small amount would be required to enter the systemic circulation and its demonstrated absorptiveness in the nose and mouth suggests a passage through the huge absorptive surface of the lung is unlikely to present obstacles,” Dr McIntosh said.
“There has also been significant progress in aerosol powder development in recent years, as well as in the field of medical device manufacture, making it feasible to produce simple efficient delivery systems that could be used fir drug administration by people living in remote areas” she said.
The researchers are confident the new delivery system treatment could be fast-tracked for approval and made available within a relatively short period of time. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is focused on engaging creative minds to work on scientific and technological breakthroughs for the world’s most pressing health problems.
For more information contact Samantha Blair, Media and Communications + 61 3 9903 4841 or 0439 013 951.