According to this article on Voice of America's site, a low-cost drug developed in the 1960s could prevent up to one-third of maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).
I looked up the statistics on maternal death and PPH (a form of obstetric hemorrhage). According to the World Health Organization, there are 14 million cases of PPH each year, and of that number, roughly 127,000 women die as a result.
One hundred twenty seven thousand women die each year.
I had to sit with that number for a while.
What is postpartum hemorrhage? It's when the uterus fails to contract enough following childbirth. In the developed world, this is manageable and preventable. In the developing world, PPH accounts for 60% of maternal deaths, as prevention and treatment are both more difficult. Without treatment, a woman can die in a matter of hours.
The Voice of America article reports that a drug created in Japan in the 60s may actually help. The drug, tranexamic acid, was originally developed for blood clots but has proven effective in treating PPH, based on a study of more than 20,000 women in Africa and Asia.
One of the most interesting parts of the article is the explanation of some of the obstacles to getting this drug into the field and out to postpartum women, including questions of heat stability (so refrigeration isn't necessary) and teaching doctors/healthcare providers about the drug in the first place.
It's all really thought-provoking and fascinating from so many perspectives. It's easy to think that a simple solution could be...well...easy. But I never thought of a drug needing to be heat stable and the implications of needing refrigeration. It speaks to the challenges of getting even the simplest aid to the people who need it most.