In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved 27 new molecular entities (i.e., drugs) for human use. Because of their indications, it is unlikely that four will be used in pregnancy or lactation, so they are not discussed here. The four agents are ospemifene (Osphena), an estrogen agonist/antagonist used for severe dyspareunia; [223Ra]radium dichloride (Xofigo), for late-stage metastatic prostate cancer; conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene (Duavee) for hot flashes associated with menopause and to prevent osteoporosis; and flutemetamol F-18 injection (Vizamyl), a radioactive diagnostic agent to aid in the evaluation of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
There are two other drugs that are unlikely to be used in pregnancy: macitentan (Opsumit) and riociguat (Adempas). These drugs are oral vasodilators indicated for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. Both are teratogenic in rats and rabbits, but there are no reports of their use in human pregnancy. For female patients of reproductive potential, they are only available through restricted programs. Pregnancy must be excluded before starting therapy, monthly during treatment, and for 1 month after treatment is stopped.
The remaining 21 agents can be classified into the following categories: anticonvulsant (1), antidepressant (1), antidiabetics (2), antineoplastics (7), antihyperlipidemic (1), anti-infectives (4), diagnostics (2), immunologic (1), and respiratory (2). It is important to note that, except for two drugs (fluticasone in a combination product and dimethyl fumarate), there is no reported human pregnancy experience for these agents. Moreover, all probably cross the placenta to the embryo and/or the fetus, at least in some part of pregnancy.
Eslicarbazepine (Aptiom) is indicated as adjunctive treatment of partial-onset seizures. Developmental toxicity was observed in three animals: teratogenicity (mice), embryolethality (rats), and fetal growth restriction (rabbits). The no-effect dose was not found in two species, and was less than the human dose based on body surface area in the third. If a pregnant woman is taking this drug, she should be encouraged to enroll in the North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry by calling 888-233-2334.
Vortioxetine (Brintellix) is indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder. The drug was not teratogenic in animals but did cause developmental delays in one species. Although the antidepressant mechanism is not fully understood, it appears to be related to the inhibition of the reuptake of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). If so, vortioxetine would be closely related to the drugs in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class: citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and vilazodone (Viibryd). The relationship could be important because the use of SSRIs or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) close to birth is related to significant toxicity in the newborn.
There are two new antidiabetic agents for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Alogliptin (Nesina), a dipeptidyl peptidase–4 inhibitor, is in the same pharmacologic class as linagliptin (Tradjenta), saxagliptin (Onglyza), and sitagliptin (Januvia). Canagliflozin (Invokana) is a sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor, the first drug in this class to be approved. The animal data for alogliptin suggest low risk, whereas canagliflozin caused renal toxicity in rats at exposures corresponding to the late second and third trimester in humans. Insulin remains the treatment of choice for pregnant diabetics because tight control of glucose levels is beneficial for the mother, embryo-fetus, and newborn.
The seven new antineoplastic agents are ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) for HER2-positive breast cancer; afatinib (Gilotrif) for non–small cell lung cancer; dabrafenib (Tafinlar) for unresectable or metastatic melanoma; ibrutinib (Imbruvica) for mantle cell lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia; obinutuzumab (Gazyva) for chronic lymphocytic leukemia; pomalidomide (Pomalyst) for multiple myeloma; and trametinib (Mekinist) for unresectable or metastatic melanoma. Only pomalidomide is contraindicated in pregnancy. Although obinutuzumab did not cause teratogenicity in monkeys, its use in the latter portion of pregnancy resulted in newborn depletion of B cells that took up to 6 months after birth to restore. Moreover, it is used in combination with chlorambucil, a known teratogen. The animal data suggest risk in the other five agents. Nevertheless, the maternal condition should determine whether any of these antineoplastics are used in a pregnant woman.
Mipomersen sodium (Kynamro) is given subcutaneously once a week as an adjunct to lipid-lowering medications. The drug caused embryo toxicity in one of three animal species.
Among the four anti-infectives are two oral agents for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection: simeprevir (Olysio) and sofosbuvir (Sovaldi). Because both agents are recommended to be combined with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, they are classified as contraindicated in pregnancy. However, when used alone, the animal data suggest that sofosbuvir was low risk, whereas simeprevir might have higher risk.