Preterm Labor

Disease Overview

Preterm labor is defined as the onset of uterine contractions before term and is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and a substantial portion of all birth-related short- and long-term morbidity. Successfully inhibiting preterm labor is known to reduce the risk of neonatal complications.

Preterm labor is the cause of a substantial portion of all birth-related short and long-term morbidity. Successful inhibition of premature birth is known to reduce the risk of complications. Despite extensive research into preterm labor during the past several decades, the rate of premature births has not decreased. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 4,000,000 births in the United States in 2010, 12% of which were considered preterm births.

Currently, therapy for preterm labor remains targeted at uterine contractions. ß2-adrenergic receptor agonists are generally used as first-line treatments for premature labor. The only FDA-approved treatment for preterm labor is ritodrine, a ß2 agonist. However, ritodrine has not been available for sale in the U.S. market since 1999. The more widely used treatment for preterm labor is another ß2 agonist, terbutaline; however, this drug is not approved by the FDA for preterm labor. Atosiban, an oxytocin antagonist, is available in Europe, but was denied regulatory approval in the United States. The usefulness of these ß2-adrenergic receptor agonists is often limited by the adverse reactions they produce, which include cardiovascular side effects such as heart palpitations. As a result, we believe that there is a need for treatments with better safety and tolerability profiles that are effective in reducing the premature birth rate and/or providing for longer gestation.

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