Taking Influenza Drugs During Pregnancy Does Not Increase Risk of Adverse Neonatal Outcomes

LONDON -- March 1, 2017 -- A study published by the BMJ finds no increased risks to newborn babies if their mothers have taken drugs to prevent or treat influenza during pregnancy.

This is the largest study to date to assess potential risks of taking antiviral drugs during pregnancy and the results support previous findings.

Regulatory agencies in Europe and the United States already recommend neuraminidase inhibitors for pregnant women with confirmed or suspected influenza, or those exposed to close contacts with the illness, despite limited knowledge on their safety and effectiveness during pregnancy.

Therefore, Sophie Graner, MD, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues decided to assess risks of adverse birth outcomes in association with neuraminidase inhibitors during pregnancy.

The study involved almost 6,000 women who were prescribed oseltamivir or zanamivir during pregnancy. Their outcomes were compared with almost 700,000 women who did not receive prescriptions during a pregnancy in the same time period (2008-2010).

After several health-related factors were taken into account, such as age, smoking, and use of other medications, the researchers found no increased risks of adverse outcomes including low birth weight, low Apgar score, preterm birth, stillbirth, or birth defects.

The findings remained the same when the analyses were restricted to oseltamivir exposure only.

The researchers pointed out that their study included some limitations that could have influenced the findings. For example, the study did not assess risks of adverse outcomes before 22 weeks of pregnancy, and some women could have filled a prescription without taking the drug

However, they say their results “support previously reported findings that the use of neuraminidase inhibitors is not associated with increased risks of adverse fetal or neonatal outcomes.”

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