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Despite Controversy, WHO Not Likely To Change Its Stance On Misoprostol Use

Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”

Boseley presents a number of arguments from both sides of the debate. She notes “[t]he International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics recommends the use of misoprostol for prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage and is part of a [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]-funded initiative to bring about wider distribution of the tablets,” and concludes, “It will be surprising if the WHO changes its stance at the next meeting to discuss the essential medicines list, early next year” (8/23).