Celebrex may be safe for preterm labor, preliminary study finds

rotein called cyclo-oxygenase (COX), which is thought to play a critical role in the onset of preterm labor. Recently, however, several research teams including the Washington University group discovered that women in preterm labor have abnormally high levels of only one type of COX protein, COX-2. The team therefore theorized that a drug like celecoxib, which influences only COX-2, may effectively treat preterm labor with fewer side effects, since the drug only targets one protein.

Twenty-four women older than 18 who went into labor between 24 and 34 weeks of pregnancy were treated with either celecoxib or indomethacin. They all were admitted to Washington University's clinical affiliate, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, or to Northwestern University's affiliate, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The women were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups. The team examined the health of the mothers and fetuses until delivery.

The team found the two drugs equally safe for mothers, but celecoxib was safer for fetuses than indomethacin. For example, indomethacin significantly increased the constriction of a major blood vessel in fetuses, the ductus arteriosus, while there was no significant change in the celecoxib group. Also, the volume of amniotic fluid in the indomethacin group was less than in the celecoxib group 24 hours and 48 hours after the first treatment. Blood tests confirmed that celecoxib interfered only with COX-2, while indomethacin also disrupted another COX protein.

According to Sadovsky, "If further testing verifies the safety and effectiveness of celecoxib, we could have a new drug to treat women who are at risk for preterm delivery."


Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
Washington University School of Medicine

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