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Trial Involving Pregnant Women, Viagra Ends With Deaths

11 babies died
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2018 7:41 AM CDT
Stock photo of an ultrasound.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The research had been borne out in rats, and so the next step was humans: Some 93 pregnant Dutch women whose placentas weren't operating optimally were given sildenafil, the drug better known as Viagra. The condition sharply limits a fetus' growth, and the hope was that the drug's blood-dilating effects would promote better blood flow through the placenta, boosting the fetus' development. That trial was halted last week in the face of gloomy initial results: 17 babies born with lung issues, only six of whom survived. Among a control group of roughly an equal size, there were only three babies with lung issues and no deaths. The Guardian reports some in the test group have anxious days ahead: As many as 15 women have yet to know what their child's outcome will be.

As for what went wrong, the theory is that the drug may have elevated blood pressure in the lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen the growing babies received. "I am shocked," says the study leader, who noted that a similar Canadian study has been paused after his team alerted those researchers about their findings. They're two of four global trials. Stuff.co.nz reported in March on the results of a study that involved 122 Australian and New Zealand women, half of whom received sildenafil. Their results suggested a slightly better outcome among mothers who took the drug but the findings were framed as statistically insignificant due to the size of the pool. That report cited a study that wrapped up in 2017 in England that found no positive impacts on fetuses who received the drug. (Read more Viagra stories.)

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