Home > Online Clinic News > Sildenafil to be Studied as Treatment for Pre-eclampsia

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The use of old medications for new treatment is one of the most common occurrences in medical research and is a topic we have covered many times before. Generally, the illnesses tend to reflect a joint underlying mechanism that can be exploited using similar treatments. The most recent version of this comes from a controversial new study, which will aim to treat pre-eclampsia with sildenafil.

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder that affects a number of pregnant women per year and results in an estimated 600 still births per year in the UK. One of the key aspects of the disorder is that the unborn infant often does not receive all the blood that it needs as the arteries that feed the placenta fail to widen. As a result of this, many of those infants are either still born or born prematurely. It is believed that a moderate dose of sildenafil could aid in widening the arteries, thereby helping the placenta to widen. However, in order for this to be considered as a valid treatment, multiple clinical trials are needed. As such, it should come as no surprise that two trials in New Zealand and UK are underway.

The largest trial, which will be carried out in New Zealand, is aiming to recruit 120 women. The participants will be given either a placebo or a controlled dose of sildenafil citrate (also known as a generic version of Viagra). The researchers are hoping that the results will mimic findings from previous animal studies, where sildenafil citrate aided increased blood supply to the placenta. It is hoped that the results and analyses will be complete by 2017. Currently, there is not any information provided about the trial in the UK.

Although we can understand the rationale for the trials, there are a few areas that we hope the researchers will clarify. Perhaps the most obvious aspect comes from the associated long and short term risks for women and their infants that have not been made clear in the information released to date. Similarly, we would be keen to understand how long the women would be followed up, and what instruments would be used for assessments and comparisons between the groups.

Although there are questions raised, it is clear that this research may open up a new avenue of treatment that could affect many lives. This, if anything, is cause for optimism.

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