Preemie Matters - March 2011

In this issue of Preemie Matters: Cost Skyrockets for First FDA-Approved Drug to Prevent Preterm Birth  •  Innovative Preemie Breastfeeding Program Goes Online  •  Surprising Findings on Preemie Hearing Loss  •  Partner Spotlight: Friends of Maddie Supports Families of Critically-Ill Babies  •  March of Dimes Announces $2.4 Million for Prematurity Research

Dramatic Increase in Costs of First FDA-Approved Drug to Prevent Preterm Birth

As health reporter Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press puts it, "The cost of preventing preterm labor is about to go through the roof." MSNBC and TIME have been among the news outlets to cover the dramatic spike in costs for Makena following its FDA approval last month as the first drug to help prevent premature birth. In February Makena's cost rose from $10-20 to $1,500 per dose - with an implicated cost-per-pregnancy at as much as $30,000. The cause: Rather than being cheaply compounded in special (but non federally-approved) pharmacies, the drug is now exclusively sold by drug company KV Pharmaceutical. While the company argues for the pricing as justifiable, doctors and healthcare advocates are concerned about low-income women who may not get the drug due to cost - as well as the financial burden on government programs and health insurance companies.

Innovative Preemie Breastfeeding Program Goes Online

A UC San Diego Health System breastfeeding program supporting preemie babies is now online. The Supporting Premature Infant Nutrition (SPIN) program, developed by the UCSD Health System to help mothers produce sufficient breast milk for their premature infants, recently expanded its reach to anyone with Internet access. With a new website, the online SPIN program offers educational videos and resources such as pumping log sheets, lactation research and publications, and recipes. These online tools will allow mothers nationwide to learn about the program and follow the steps at their own convenience - while also serving as a teaching model for other health institutions. The overarching goal: Improving the manner in which NICUs across the nation support optimal nutrition and growth for preemies.

Surprising Findings on Preemie Hearing Loss

New findings on hearing loss among premature babies suggest that a rare condition known as auditory neuropathy may be more common in preemies than in full-term babies. Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard University and the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil found in postmortem exams of 50 preemie NICU infants that while the sensory cells - or outer hair cells amplifying sound vibrations - appeared healthy, the sensory cells - or inner hair cells - were destroyed, preventing them from converting vibrations to electrical signals that travel to the brain. This trend contrasted with the one seen among full-term NICU babies, whose hearing loss was more related to outer hair cell damage. The findings are surprising, since outer hair cells are considered more delicate - and most human hearing loss is due to outer hair cell damage.

Partner Spotlight: Friends of Maddie Supports Families of Critically-Ill Babies

Friends of Maddie, founded by Heather and Mike Spohr after the loss of their daughter Madeline, is a nonprofit organization supporting the families of critically-ill babies by easing the transition into NICU life and providing an ally throughout the NICU experience. Friends of Maddie provides Family Support Packs to Level III NICUs across the country, helps with finding temporary housing for families who live beyond commuting distance from their child's hospital, and creates networks of former NICU families who are willing to provide counseling to families of currently hospitalized babies.

March of Dimes Announces $2.4 Million for Prematurity Research

March of Dimes has announced nearly $2.4 million in new grants to support research related to the prediction and prevention of prematurity, bringing the organization's seven-year-old grant program's total to almost $20 million. The newly-announced disbursement goes to five scientists who will spend the next three years studying questions such as whether low doses of inhaled carbon monoxide can prevent inflammation that triggers preterm labor, what role genes play in preterm delivery and which types of blood testing could identify at-risk women.


Information is reported as provided and does not necessarily represent the view of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. A complete copy of HMHB's disclaimer is available on our website.