Research in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found that pregnant women taking antiviral medications to treat hepatitis C (HCV) and/or HIV with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or antihypertensives may have an increased risk of birth defects or stunted fetal growth, although these antiviral drugs have not been shown to directly cause harm to a fetus.

Prior studies in animal models suggest that NSAIDs could be associated with an increased risk of birth defects and that antihypertensives may slow fetal growth. Tomo Nabekura, PhD, from the Aichi Gakuin University in Nagoya, Japan, and colleagues found that antiviral drugs inhibited the transport of two “surrogate” drugs across human placental BeWo cells due the same mechanism for attaching to the transporter proteins. This suggests that for women taking both antivirals and NSAIDs and/or antihypertensives, the latter could accumulate in the fetal circulation and lead to fetal damage.

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“The new research shows that more detailed knowledge of placental drug transport is badly needed,” stated Dr. Nabekura. “Investigators need to conduct in vivo pharmacokinetic studies of drug transfer in the developing placenta, and pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the fetuses.”

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