Kenya procures drug that prevents excessive bleeding after childbirth

Written by on February 20, 2024

Health Cabinet secretary Susan Nakumicha has said Kenya has procured 360,000 doses of a new formulation of a drug that prevents excessive bleeding following childbirth.  

Heat Stable Carbetocin drug, which will arrive in the country in March does not require refrigeration and can be effective for at least three years stored at 30 degrees Celsius and 75% relative humidity. Heat Stable Carbetocin is also effective due to a longer duration of action of the uterus. 

Dr. Edward Serem, Kenya’s Head of the Division of Reproductive and Maternal Health, said that Heat Stable Carbetocin will be used along with Oxytocin, which is Kenya’s first-choice drug for preventing excessive bleeding after childbirth.He added that oxytocin must be stored and transported at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

“Not many regions in Kenya can sustain these levels of refrigeration, and that means when the women get the medicine for preventing the bleeding, it has completely lost its potency because of exposure to higher temperatures,” Dr. Serem said.

Postpartum Haemorrhage (PPH), is a severe condition in which women bleed uncontrollably after childbirth and is the deadliest of all complications during childbirth.

A 2017 investigation into all the deaths of mothers by the Ministry of Health showed that PPH is responsible for 2 in every 5 women who die in Kenya during and after childbirth. Failure of the uterus to contract adequately after childbirth is the most common cause of  the hemorrhage.  The government is including the medicine as one of the options following Kenya’s participation in the world’s largest clinical trial called Carbetocin Haemorrhage Prevention, known to many as the CHAMPION Trial.

The study tested the effectiveness of the medicine alongside Oxytocin on 30,000 women who gave birth vaginally in Argentina, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed it to be safe and effective just as oxytocin, which Kenya has used all along. The Ministry of Health has also tested the medicine in 11 counties in Kenya. 

Maternal mortality remains high in Kenya, placing it in the category “very high” category of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Ministry of Health’s 2017 report indicated that 91% of women who died received suboptimal care, where different management would have resulted in a different outcome. 

The report further highlighted that the suboptimal care was due to inconsistent treatment practices that do not adhere to the guidelines, lack of equipment, poor referral system, and understaffed hospitals. 

In response to the arrival of the medicine, the government solicited support from multiple development partners and donors to train healthcare workers on the appropriate use of the medicine.

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