QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

birth defects

Painkillers during pregnancy may be linked to abnormalities.

· THE QUESTION Medications generally considered safe and reliable may have unexpected consequences when taken during a pregnancy. Might that be the case with pain relievers called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)?

· THIS STUDY analyzed medical data on children born to 36,387 women; 2,571 of these babies were born with a birth defect. Women who had taken NSAIDs -- mainly Aleve (naproxen), Advil (ibuprofen), Vioxx (rofecoxib), Celebrex (celecoxib) and Cataflan or Arthrotec (diclofenac) -- during their first trimester of pregnancy were twice as likely to have had a child with a birth defect as were women who did not take such pain relievers. Heart defects, specifically cardiac septal abnormalities, were most common.

· WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Pregnant women. About 150,000 babies are born each year in the United States with some type of birth defect. Problems affecting the heart and circulatory system affect the most infants.

· CAVEATS Whether the women who took NSAIDs had medical conditions that increased the risk of birth defects in their children was unknown. Also unknown was whether the women took a high enough dose of NSAIDs to cause problems. The study was conducted before Vioxx was taken off the market because of an increased occurrence of heart attacks among people taking it; about 15 percent of the women in the study took Vioxx.

· FIND THIS STUDY September issue of Birth Defects Research (Part B); abstract available online at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/bdrb (click on "Early View").

· LEARN MORE ABOUT birth defects at http://www.marchofdimes.com and http://www.kidshealth.org (click on "Parents").

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