Global health organisation PATH and a local NGO SERAC-Bangladesh recently joined together to highlight the fact that many Bangladeshi women lack access to the life-saving medicines that can prevent the two leading causes of death during pregnancy and childbirth — postpartum haemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia.
A new paper by PATH, Stronger markets, increased access to maternal health supplies, details how inconsistent availability and poor-quality supplies of oxytocin, misoprostol, and magnesium sulfate in the country threaten women’s lives, and what can be done to solve the problem.
Bangladesh has the tenth-highest burden of maternal mortality globally, and in 2015 about half of all maternal deaths were caused by uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, also known as postpartum haemorrhage, and a condition that causes high blood pressure and seizures during pregnancy called pre-eclampsia/eclampsia. Medicine to prevent and treat these conditions — oxytocin and misoprostol for postpartum haemorrhage and magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia/eclampsia — are affordable, effective, and promoted for use by the global health community.
However in Bangladesh, inconsistent availability and supply of products of poor or unverified quality put pregnant women at risk. For example, a study found that, as of March 2016, none of these drugs registered in Bangladesh had been verified to meet international standards for quality. Another study examining drug storage in three districts discovered that even though oxytocin requires refrigeration, a significant proportion of public and private drug shops stored the drug on shelves, threatening product safety and efficacy.
“Access to quality medicine could save thousands of mothers’ lives every year, but currently market and health systems failures are keeping them from the women who need them or supporting circulation of poor-quality drugs that put their lives at risk,” said S M Shaikat, Executive Director of SERAC Bangladesh.
“National and local governments, donors, and advocates must work together to strengthen the market to better deliver quality assured and consistently available maternal health products so women and families can receive the care they deserve,” he added.