Heart disease drugs could treat pregnant women
Thousands of pregnant women at risk of a potentially fatal condition could be treated using common heart disease drugs.
Scientists believe that statins, taken by millions of older people to reduce their cholesterol levels, can help reduce the severity of pre-eclampsia.
If the world’s first full clinical trial is successful, it could provide the first simple and effective treatment of a complication that affects many.
Prof Asif Ahmed, who is leading the study at the University of Edinburgh, said: “If we are successful, and I am very optimistic that we will be, this treatment will transform clinical management of women with pre-eclampsia.
“This is the first stage but I am sure that within the next five to seven years, the type of statin used in the trial will be on the prescription pad.
“It will be a great breakthrough not only for mothers and babies in our country but also in the developing world where there is a chronic need for cheaper therapies.”
Pre-eclampsia leads to high blood pressure in pregnancy and in severe cases can lead to the woman suffering kidney and liver damage or their unborn baby being stillborn.
But research has suggested that two proteins linked to inducing the condition can be controlled through the use of statins.
The new trial, funded by the Medical Research Council, will involve 128 pregnant women who have been diagnosed with early-onset pre-eclampsia. Those given statins will be monitored to see if the drugs lower their levels of one of the proteins, known as soluble flt-1.
This would likely make their condition less severe and so reduce the need for their babies to be delivered early.
Despite researchers’ confidence that the trial will lead to a breakthrough in clinical management of pre-eclampsia, they stress that pregnant women should not yet start asking doctors to prescribe them statins.