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Ed Yeates Reporting...A hormone has effectively PREVENTED premature births in women at high risk for pre-term deliveries. Some physicians are calling it the most significant advance in treatment - they’ve ever seen.
The two and a half year experimental trials began in 1999 with 463 women who had a history of pre-term births. One of the largest study groups occurred right here in Utah.
Lily Chadsey was born prematurely this morning at University Hospital -- weighing in at only 12 ounces.
The frequency of pre-term births has risen from 9 to over 11 percent in this country in only the past four years. Doctors had been pessimistic about reversing that trend - until now!
Michael Varner, M.D. / U of U Maternal-Fetal Medicine: "THIS HAS THE POTENTIAL OF BEING BY FAR THE BIGGEST ADVANCE OF ANYTHING IN THE TWENTY-FIVE YEARS I'VE BEEN IN OBSTETRICS TO REDUCE THIS PROBLEM."
Dr. Michael Varner and his colleagues gave a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone to the mothers.
The weekly injections began sixteen to twenty weeks in their pregnancies - and continued through 36 weeks.
The drug, called 17P, reduced subsequent pre-term births by up to ONE THIRD.
Ed Yeates, Eyewitness News: "17P WAS SO EFFECTIVE IN PREVENTING PREMATURE BIRTHS, THAT THE RESEARCH TEAM ACTUALLY HALTED THE CLINICAL TRIALS EARLY."
Michael Varner, M.D. / U of U Maternal-Fetal Medicine: "WE ACTUALLY DID NOT EXPECT THAT KIND OF RESULT AT ALL."
Neither did Katie Howard in Syracuse, Utah. She lost her first child. But Emma here was born in the early days of the study full term. In fact, when Katie stopped taking 17P - Emma was born a week later.
Katie Howard/ Study Participant: "I FELT COMFORTABLE WITH IT. I KNEW DR VARNER WAS RIGHT. I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE A GOOD STUDY -- AND THE RESULTS WERE AWESOME."
Awesome, yes. But there is still some caution. Dr. Varner says more research is needed, including long-term follow-up studies of the children who were born while their mothers took the hormone.
If the FDA approves 17P, it could cost as little as 20 to 30 dollars per injection. That compared to two thousand dollars per day caring for a preemie in a newborn intensive care unit.