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.
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