MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Catherine Y. Chew, PharmD, BCGP
Deputy Director, Division of Drug Information
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
MedicalResearch.com: What actions is FDA taking regarding NSAID use during pregnancy?
Response: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that use of prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) from around 20 weeks of pregnancy through the end of pregnancy may cause rare but serious kidney problems in an unborn baby. This can lead to low levels of amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn baby and possible complications.
For prescription NSAIDs, FDA is requiring changes to the prescribing information to describe the risk of kidney problems in unborn babies; these kidney problems can result in low amniotic fluid. FDA is recommending that pregnant women avoid NSAIDs from around 20 weeks of pregnancy. Prescribing information already recommends avoiding NSAIDs from around 30 weeks through the end of pregnancy because NSAIDs can cause a problem that may result in heart issues in the unborn baby. If NSAID use is necessary between 20 and 30 weeks of pregnancy, NSAID use should be limited to the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration. Health care professionals should consider ultrasound monitoring of amniotic fluid if a pregnant woman uses NSAIDs beyond 48 hours.
FDA will also work with sponsors to request updates of the Drug Facts labels of OTC NSAIDs intended for use in adults. These labels already warn to avoid using NSAIDs during the last three months of pregnancy because the medicines may cause problems in the unborn baby or complications during delivery. The Drug Facts labels also already advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to ask a health care professional before using these medicines.
MedicalResearch.com: What did FDA find?
Response: These labeling changes are based on cases reported to FDA about low amniotic fluid levels or kidney problems in unborn babies associated with NSAID use during pregnancy. FDA’s medical literature review also contributed to the basis for the labeling changes.
Among the 35 cases of low amniotic fluid levels or kidney problems reported to FDA through 2017, all were serious. Two newborns who died had kidney failure and confirmed low amniotic fluid when mothers took NSAIDs while pregnant; three other newborns who died had kidney failure without confirmed low amniotic fluid when mothers took NSAIDs while pregnant. The low amniotic fluid levels started as early as 20 weeks of pregnancy. In 11 cases where low amniotic fluid levels were detected during pregnancy, the fluid volume returned to normal after the woman stopped taking the NSAID.
FDA’s medical literature review yielded similar findings. In these publications, low amniotic fluid levels were detected with NSAID use for varying amounts of time, ranging from 48 hours to multiple weeks. In most cases, the condition was reversible within three to six days after stopping the NSAID. In many reports, the condition was reversed when the NSAID was stopped; the condition reappeared when the same NSAID was started again.
MedicalResearch.com: What are NSAIDs? Are all NSAIDs included in the new FDA recommendations to avoid NSAID use from around 20 weeks through the end of pregnancy?
Response: For decades, people have used NSAIDs to treat pain and fever from many different long- and short-term medical conditions, such as arthritis, menstrual cramps, headaches, colds, and the flu. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. There are both prescription and OTC NSAIDs.
NSAIDs are available alone and combined with other medicines for the temporary relief of pain and fever, including pain or fever symptoms associated with colds, flu, and insomnia. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), diclofenac (Voltaren), and celecoxib (Celebrex) and aspirin.
An exception to these new FDA recommendations is the use of the low-dose aspirin (81 mg) for certain pregnancy-related conditions at any point in pregnancy under the direction of a health care professional. Low-dose aspirin may be an important treatment for some women during pregnancy. The recommendations also do not apply to NSAIDs administered directly to the eye.
MedicalResearch.com: NSAIDs already carry a warning about use in late pregnancy. What is different about these labeling changes?
Response: Warnings to avoid taking NSAIDs after about 30 weeks of pregnancy are already included in the prescribing information because taking these medications during this time may lead to heart issues in the unborn baby. The new labeling changes recommend avoiding NSAIDs as early as about 20 weeks of pregnancy because of the risk of kidney problems that result in low amniotic fluid.
MedicalResearch.com: What should pregnant women and health care professionals do? What are other options for pain relief during pregnancy?
Response: Women should not use NSAIDs after around 20 weeks in pregnancy unless specifically advised to do so by a health care professional. Because many OTC medicines contain NSAIDs, pregnant women should read the Drug Facts labels to determine if the medicines contain an NSAID. If pregnant women are unsure if a medicine contains an NSAID, they should ask a pharmacist or health care professional for help.
Other medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), are available to treat pain and fever during pregnancy. Pregnant women should ask their pharmacist or health care professional for help deciding which medication might be best.
Health care professionals should limit prescribing NSAIDs between 20 to 30 weeks of pregnancy and avoid prescribing them after 30 weeks of pregnancy. If NSAID treatment is determined necessary, health care professionals should limit use to the lowest effective dose and shortest duration possible. They should also consider ultrasound monitoring of amniotic fluid if the pregnant woman regularly uses NSAIDs longer than 48 hours and discontinue the NSAID if low amniotic fluid levels are found.
FDA recommends avoiding use of NSAIDs in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later because they can result in low amniotic fluid
NSAIDs may cause rare kidney problems in unborn babies
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