Senior Research Scholar and Institute Director Maggie Little was recently quoted in a story on the uncertainties expectant mothers face when taking prescription drugs.
Written by Ben Schmitt at Pittsburgh’s Tribune-Review, the piece highlights two unnerving statistics: About 70 percent of pregnant women in the United States take at least one prescription drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, most drugs are not tested on pregnant women for safety and effectiveness; and less than 10 percent of medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1980 have enough information to determine their safety, according to the CDC.
At present, the situation leaves doctors and patients with great uncertainty about how to safety navigate pregnancy: there is a severe lack of data on nearly all of the medications and interventions that many pregnant women use.
“It touches so many women’s lives and their families,” said Little, director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown. “Right now we are caught in a terrible Catch-22: Because we don’t know much, we don’t know what to tell women. Pregnancy is an off-label condition.”
The idea of improving research on pregnant women has gained momentum as new threats such as the Zika virus rise to the forefront.
“If we get a vaccine for Zika, you better believe pregnant women need to be some of the folks who get that vaccine,” Little said.