11 babies die after mothers take Viagra in medical study

Eleven babies are dead after women were given the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra during pregnancy as part of a drug trial in the Netherlands.

The study involving 183 pregnant women at the University Medical Center in Amsterdam was stopped following the deaths of the babies, local news agency de Volksrant reported. The purpose of the study was to see if vasodilator sildenafil, known as Viagra, would promote blood flow of the placenta, helping the baby grow.

The women in the study, which began in 2015 and was slated to run until 2020, were pregnant with babies who had severe growth deficits early in their pregnancy, between 20 and 30 weeks. As a result, the babies were given a poor prognosis. According to The Guardian, the use in this situation of Viagra, which is also prescribed for people with high blood pressure, is supported by experimental research on rats.

Doctors administered Viagra to about half the women while the others were given a placebo. Among the women who received Viagra, 17 babies developed lung problems and 11 of them died. Eight additional babies died of unrelated conditions, according to de Volksrant. Three babies in the control group developed lung problems and nine died from other causes

Between 10 and 15 women are still waiting to find out if their baby has been affected, The Guardian reported.

Leader of the study Dr. Wessel Ganzevoort told local news agency Nieuwsuur that "there is a relationship" between the deaths and the drug, but it "is not yet clear."

"It is clear that it is much more prevalent in the sildenafil group than in the placebo group, so there is a relationship, but in individual cases that is not yet clear," Ganzevoort said. "We do not know if the babies would have survived if they had not received the drug."

Researchers believe that the Viagra caused high blood pressure in the babies' lungs, leading them to not receive enough oxygen. There is no evidence that suggests the trial was mishandled, according to The Guardian.

Ganzevoort told Nieuwsuur that many questions around the study remain and the researchers will continue to monitor the surviving babies and their mothers. They also plan to pore over the files of the deceased babies and their mothers "to understand very well what precisely happened."

He added that he is "shocked" by the results and that he had hoped the treatment would lead to healthy babies.

"I do this very much, as a person and as a doctor, I know these patients and their stories well," Ganzevoort said. "You hope that the treatment will lead to more healthy babies, if you see these results then you will be very shocked."

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