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Too many pregnant women are exposed to contraindicated drugs

Many drugs are harmful to the unborn child. It is important to know what these are to avoid exposing pregnant women and fetuses.

Alarm bells should be ringing as a result of the worrying findings of several studies showing the exposure of pregnant women to drugs posing a risk to the unborn child.

The use of a wide number of drugs has become commonplace. It is important to remember that some of these can expose the mother and the unborn child to very severe adverse effects. These include some anti-hypertensive drugs (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (also called ACE inhibitors) and angiotensin II receptor antagonists). These drugs expose the unborn child to severe disorders, especially when they are administered during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy: severe renal disorders, malformation, etc. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) expose pregnant women to the risk of miscarriage, and the unborn child to the risk of malformation and cardio-pulmonary and renal anomalies.

Isotretinoin, a drug marketed as an acne treatment, is teratogenic: 25% of infants exposed to it are born with malformations affecting the cranium and face, the heart and the nervous system.

These risks have been known for a long time; but several studies confirm that, regrettably, pregnant women continue to be exposed to these drugs. The fight to prevent potentially harmful medications from becoming commonplace is still an issue. Drugs that are known to be dangerous during pregnancy should be identified in order to avoid exposing unborn infants to severe risks.

©Prescrire February 2010

"'NSAIDs, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, and isotretinoin: still too many pregnant women exposed" Prescrire Int 2010; 19 (105): 25.


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