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Dexamethasone use to treat pregnant women with Covid may cause birth defects in babies: Study

The study found that the use of dexamethasone, as well as antithrombotics and HIV medications, was associated with a high risk of premature birth.

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New Delhi: Administering dexamethasone — one of the few drugs shown to reduce the risk of death from Covid — to pregnant women may cause major congenital malformation in babies, according to a study that looked at how safe common Covid-19 medications were for pregnant women.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada and Université Claude Bernard in France, showed that several repurposed drugs that are in different stages of trials or have been approved for use in Covid patients are associated with adverse outcomes in pregnant women.

The team from Canada and France looked at data of women who delivered a baby between 1998 to 2015 in Canada.

“Medications already available to treat other conditions are presently being studied in clinical trials as potential treatments for COVID-19. Given that pregnant women are excluded from these trials, we aimed to investigate their safety when used during pregnancy within a unique population source,” the researchers wrote in the study.

As many as 231,075 women who gave birth to a single child were included in the study. Of these, at least 8,213 pregnancies were exposed to at least one Covid-19 repurposed drug.

These included drugs such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, HIV medications (indinavir, lopinavir/ritonavir, raltegravir, and saquinavir), and multiple sclerosis study medications (interferon beta-1a, beta-1b, and alfa-2b).

While the use of these drugs varies according to the approvals given by countries, one of the drugs analysed in the study was dexamethasone — an oral steroid that is recommended for use in moderate to severe Covid patients.

Also read: Hand-washing, wearing masks cut cases of Kawasaki disease in kids, South Korea study says

What the study says

The team found records of 107 pregnant women who were given dexamethasone. Use of this drug, as well as antithrombotics and HIV medications, were all associated with a high risk of premature birth.

The use of dexamethasone and azithromycin was associated with major birth defects in the babies.

Antithrombotics and HIV medication use during pregnancy was associated with the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Previous studies have also shown that the risk of premature birth is higher in people who take dexamethasone during their pregnancy.

The study suggests that doctors need to exercise caution while treating pregnant women infected with Covid.

The study, though, had some limitations. The researchers used data made available through insurance records to study the patient’s use of medicines and other related parameters. However, the researchers point out that the women may have taken some over-the-counter drugs during their pregnancy that would not have been part of the records.

Also read: Older people may need 3rd shot to stay protected against Delta Covid variant: Lancet study


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