Treating preterm labour with statins

Jane Norman, Sarah Stock, John Norrie, David Williams, Eleanor Whitaker

Tommy’s researchers have shown that statins – drugs normally used to prevent heart disease – could also help to prevent premature birth and the health problems it can cause. Our researchers are now running a clinical trial to test this in pregnant women in preterm labour.

Start: August 2017

End: April 2020

Why do we need this research?

Premature birth can cause health problems for babies, and is a leading cause of death in children under 5 years old. However, when a mother goes into labour too early, the treatments we use to delay birth or prevent health problems for the baby aren’t always effective. We need to find better treatments for women in preterm labour, to give premature babies the best possible start in life.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers funded by Tommy’s have previously shown in lab experiments that drugs normally used to prevent heart disease could also delay premature birth. These drugs, called statins, work by reducing inflammation, which cause health problems for mother and baby during and after preterm labour. Statins also appear to reduce the contractions of the muscle cells which line the womb. One drug, called pravastatin, has already been shown to be safe to take during pregnancy, and may also delay birth according to early trials.

Our researchers now want to test pravastatin in a clinical trial with pregnant women at risk of premature birth. To do this, the team have set up the PIPIN study, which will find out whether it is feasible to give pravastatin to women in preterm labour. The trial will recruit 40 women at risk of preterm birth, who will be offered the drug (or a placebo) for a week or until birth. Finding out how many women would agree to take the drug, and whether it can be given at the right time before birth, is crucial information to help set up large scale trials in the future.

What difference will this project make?

The PIPIN study will lay the foundations for larger studies which will test how effective pravastatin is at prolonging premature labour. This work could ultimately lead to a new treatment to prevent premature birth, and reduce the chances of health problems for babies.

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