A cheap drug has been shown to stop women bleeding to death, in a discovery that should change practice around the world, say researchers. Every year, 100,000 women die from massive bleeding in the moments after giving birth. But an international study, in the Lancet, suggests “tranexamic acid” could cut that by a third. Postpartum haemorrhage is the biggest cause of death during pregnancy and early motherhood. “They gave me 41 bottles of blood,” said Nosheen, from Rawalpindi, in Pakistan who nearly died after the birth of her daughter. Nosheen’s life was saved only by an emergency hysterectomy. She told the BBC World Service’s Health Check programme: “Doctors told me that they will have to remove my uterus to save my life. “My health is completely destroyed, and I am very upset about it.” Tranexamic acid might have helped Nosheen. It stops blood clots breaking down to make it easier for the body to stem bleeding.
But they could not convince local doctors to perform a clinical trial for postpartum haemorrhage. So instead it was picked up by a pharmaceutical company and used as a treatment for heavy periods.  And there the story nearly ended.  Eventually, a study was coordinated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a collaboration of 193 hospitals mostly in Africa and Asia. Prof Utako Okamoto died, aged 98, just after the 20,000th and final patient was enrolled on to the trial that would finally prove she had been right.

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