WHO and UNICEF take steps to improve the availability of quality oxytocin

WHO and UNICEF take steps to improve the availability of quality oxytocin
Ibrahim Hussain, EPI Technician, loads vaccines into a cold box at an immunization in Port Sudan, Sudan, February 2014 ©UNICEF

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have issued a joint statement endorsing the integration of oxytocin into the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) cold chain in order to improve the availability of oxytocin that is not heat-damaged.

Oxytocin is the WHO recommended first-line choice for prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding after childbirth – the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.

But oxytocin degrades when exposed to prolonged heat, and keeping it cool is a challenge, particularly in countries where daytime temperatures often exceed 30°C (86°F), electricity is unavailable or unreliable, and adequate cold-chain infrastructure is lacking.

The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health has proposed transporting oxytocin within national EPI cold chain infrastructures. Several countries, including Benin, Niger, Senegal, South Sudan, and Togo, have adopted this integrated approach, along with good storage and labeling practices.

By endorsing this proposal, WHO and UNICEF seek to improve the availability of oxytocin that is not heat-damaged. Lessons learned from this experience can support integration of other drugs and products in the future.


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