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A pregnant woman comfortingly holding her bump

The University of Birmingham officially launched its new report: Healthy Mum, Healthy Baby, Healthy Future: The Case for UK Leadership in the Development of Safe, Effective and Accessible Medicines for Use in Pregnancy in the House of Commons.

Globally, over 800 women and 12,000 newborns die every day from preventable pregnancy-related complications - that is one woman and 17 babies every 2 minutes. Pregnancy complications affect two lives in one short period of time, yet only two medicines in the last 30 years have been developed specifically for pregnancy-related conditions, and not a single new medicine for some of the most serious pregnancy-specific conditions has reached women in decades.

Bringing together leading figures from charity, healthcare, industry, law, regulation and academia, the report sets out a collaborative vision for UK leadership to improve maternal health outcomes. Convened by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Health Partners, over the past year, along with Baroness Manningham-Buller LG DCB (former Director-General of MI5, former Chair of Wellcome and current Co-President of Chatham House) co-chaired the policy commission on how best to develop safe, effective and accessible medicines for use in pregnancy.

Over six evidence sessions, the Commission heard from patient groups, the pharmaceutical industry, practitioners, academics, regulators, legal experts and insurers. Compelling evidence gathered throughout the process has informed eight critical recommendations which, if implemented by government, will successfully prevent needless deaths and find new therapeutics to treat life-threatening conditions affecting mothers and their babies.

Keynote speakers at the Westminster launch included:

  • Clea Harmer, Chair, Pregnancy and Baby Charities Network
  • Dame June Raine DBE, Chief Executive, MHRA
  • Dr David J Lewis, Head of Quality and Pharmacovigilance, Novartis
  • Stella Creasy MP, Member of Parliament, Walthamstow

This report represents a clear and timely platform to improve the care we provide to pregnant and breastfeeding women, by increasing the availability of safe, effective and accessible medicines for their use.

Commenting on the report, Co-chair, Baroness Manningham-Buller LG, DCB, FMedSci said: “When I was asked to become joint chair of the Commission that has produced this report, I am ashamed to say that I wasn’t aware that there was an acute problem. Despite being at Wellcome for twelve years and Imperial College for six, I had no idea that research into conception and pregnancy was largely neglected and that virtually no drugs had been developed and trialled for pregnant women in the many decades since thalidomide. This leaves women at the mercy both of general diseases, the diseases of pregnancy and drugs which are usually unlicensed. The evidence taken by the Commission in its inquiry convinces us that this urgently needs to change. We suggest how.”

This report represents a clear and timely platform to improve the care we provide to pregnant and breastfeeding women, by increasing the availability of safe, effective and accessible medicines for their use. The Commission's role was to provide a blueprint for action and will provide ongoing support in implementing the recommendations set out in this report, as there is an urgent need for action to address this underserved area of medical need. Without it, women and babies will continue to die when they could be saved. They will continue to experience long-term health effects, disability and distress, which might be avoided.

We strongly urge the scientific, clinical, industry, regulatory, governmental and public sectors to come together to address the recommendations of this Commission. The UK has the opportunity to transform maternal health across the world, improving the lives of mothers, their babies and future generations – let’s not waste it.