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Developing New Pharmaceutical Treatments for Obstetric Conditions (Scientific Impact Paper No. 50)


Maternal and perinatal disease causes about 7% of the global burden of disease, with only modest progress being made towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

One aim of global health research and development (R&D) is to produce new drugs for neglected diseases, but R&D investment in maternal and perinatal health remains small and nonstrategic.

Only a few drugs, such as mifepristone in the context of pregnancy termination and aspirin and prostaglandins, for example, have been shown to be effective in pregnancy.

There is currently a ‘drought’ of new drug development and a review of an industry database found that in 2007 there were 1636 drugs under development for neurological indications, but only 17 for maternal health indications.

Obstetrics had only 1-5% of the drug pipeline of other mainstream specialties and fewer drugs in development than for some single diseases such as Crohn’s disease or amyotrophic lateral clerosis.

COVID disclaimer

This Scientific Impact Paper was developed prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Version history

This is the first edition of this paper. Please note that the Scientific Advisory Committee regularly assesses the need to update. Further information on this review is available on request.

Developer declaration of interests

Dr AL David MRCOG, London: Dr David is director and co-founder of Magnus Growth, part of Magnus Life Science, which is aiming to develop and take to market a novel treatment for fetal growth restriction.

Professor S Thornton FRCOG, Exeter: Professor Thornton provides consultant advice to the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr A Sutcliffe MD PhD PG Dip CT, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London: None declared.

Dr P Williams MD, Academic Discovery Performance Unit, GlaxoSmithKline, UK: Dr Williams is a full-time employee of GlaxoSmithKline in Drug Discovery and Development, including development of a drug for preterm labour. She has shares and share options in GlaxoSmithKline.