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High & Low Blood Pressure board

Was just reading this in my electronic newspaper. Glad I am not of childbearing age.

Blood-pressure drugs linked to birth defects
Study finds heart, brain problems in babies

Some blood pressure drugs previously thought to be safe when taken early in pregnancy now appear to substantially raise the risk of major birth defects, doctors say.

Babies whose mothers took ACE inhibitors in their first trimester were more than twice as likely to be born with serious heart and brain problems than those not exposed to any pressure-lowering medicines, a large study in Tennessee found. Other types of blood pressure drugs did not raise the risk to babies.

The research raises troubling questions about the lack of safety data for many drugs prescribed to pregnant women.

About eight per cent of pregnant women develop high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Exactly how many pregnant women take ACE inhibitors or another blood pressure medication is unclear. A national U.S. survey found the number of ACE inhibitor prescriptions given to women of childbearing age increased to 2.7 million in 2002 from 1.4 million in 1995.

ACE inhibitors already carry a strong Food and Drug Administration "black box" warning about their dangers in the later stages of pregnancy, and the label says the drugs should be discontinued when pregnancy is detected. But little has been known about their early effects.

Based on the new findings, taking these drugs during early pregnancy "cannot be considered safe and should be avoided," lead researcher William Cooper, a Vanderbilt University pediatrician, says in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The FDA said more research is needed before it considers changing the warning label to include the risks during the first trimester.

Doctors said expectant mothers should not stop treatment, because uncontrolled high blood pressure can harm them and the fetus, but should immediately switch to other drugs.

"This is a wake-up call. We need to learn more about these drugs to offer better advice to pregnant women," said J.M. Friedman, a medical geneticist at the University of British Columbia who had no role in the study.

ACE inhibitors have been on the market for 25 years, but little research has been done on their effects during early pregnancy.

Last year, U.S. sales of ACE inhibitors topped $3.8 billion, with about 150 million prescriptions filled, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information company. The top-sellers include Lotrel, Altace and Lisinopril.

In the study, researchers studied Medicaid records on 29,507 Tennessee infants born between 1985 and 2000. Of those, 411 had mothers who took a blood pressure drug at least once during their first trimester, including 209 who took ACE inhibitors. About seven per cent of babies exposed to ACE inhibitors developed major birth defects, compared with about two per cent whose mothers took no drugs or other blood pressure medication, such as water pills, calcium channel blockers or beta blockers.

The most common defects included holes in the heart and neurological and kidney problems.

Please remove it this is a problem, I do have a subscription to the electronic paper and understand that so long as I do not make money out of the articles I am allowed to put on sites that are not for profit.