In Defense of Misoprostol – Protecting Women’s Rights to Lifesaving Maternal Health Care

In 2011, the World Health Organization added the drug misoprostol to its Essential Medicines List for the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Postpartum hemorrhage is the single greatest direct cause of maternal mortality, accounting for 25 percent of deaths worldwide. The addition of misoprostol represented a great step forward in global efforts to make delivery safer for women everywhere, especially in resource-poor settings, where women suffer disproportionately and treatment options are limited.

However, this month, a study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine  that questions the WHO’s decision. Leading experts at Pathfinder International, including Ellen Israel and Cathy Solter, have carefully reviewed this new study and find its methodology flawed. Pathfinder also question its authors’ understanding of epidemiology and the realities of global maternal health. Misoprostol saves lives by contracting the uterus to reduce or stop bleeding, and is currently the only uterotonic that is heat stable, easily transportable, and easily administered. Pathfinder is deeply concerned that this study—despite its numerous deficiencies—might affect the availability of misoprostol, denying women access to the essential, lifesaving measure they need.

For more perspective on this study and information about the importance of misoprostol, read our newly released Technical Memo.

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Please contact Kate Stookey, Director of Public Affairs, at 617-972-1231 or

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