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Further study of medicines during pregnancy called for

11 December, 2000

The Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Jane Henney, has said the lack of knowledge about the effectiveness of medications during pregnancies is putting "women and their unborn children at risk".

Doctors often tell women to avoid most medications during pregnancy, but that thinking, promoted by scare research in the area, is depriving women of needed therapies that might help them without putting their foetuses at risk.

Reports suggest that one reason doctors are loathe in many cases to prescribe medication is due to a fear of another thalidomide-type occurrence, when the drug was withdrawn from sale in the 1960s after causing severe birth defects, especially of the limbs, when taken during pregnancy.

The Commissioner admitted it was ironic that while pregnancy was the time that doctors wanted to be most careful in prescribing drugs, it was the area where they had the least scientific data to guide them.

The FDA and other US governmental agencies are considering ways to promote research on medicine use during pregnancy, while taking into account ethical, legal and financial issues.