A review of 2015 drug approvals: Safety in pregnancy and lactation


The Food and Drug Administration approved 45 new drugs in 2015. Currently, lesinurad (Zurampic) to treat high blood uric levels associated with gout, is not yet available. Another agent, aripiprazole (Aristada) for the treatment of schizophrenia, was initially approved in 2004 and is included in “Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation,” 10th ed. (Philadelphia: Walters Kluwer: 2014, pp. 83-5).

There are three new multidrug combinations. Ceftazidime-avibactam (Avycaz) is indicated for complicated intra-abdominal and urinary tract infections, including pyelonephritis, when there are limited or no alternative treatment options. Lumacaftor-ivacaftor (Orkambi) is used to treat cystic fibrosis. There are no human pregnancy data for these two combination products but, based on animal data, they can be classified as low risk (no developmental toxicity in two or more animal species). There also is a four-drug combination that is a complete regimen for the treatment of HIV-1 infections: elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide (Genvoya). There is one reference citing the use of this combination drug in human pregnancy. It resulted in a healthy full-term infant. Because of its indication, this drug product should not be withheld because of pregnancy.

Gerald G. Briggs

Gerald G. Briggs

Asfotase (Strensiq) is a tissue nonspecific alkaline phosphatase. It is indicated for the treatment of perinatal/infantile and juvenile-onset hypophosphatasia. The animal data suggest low risk but it is doubtful that this drug will be used in pregnancy. In studies conducted by the manufacturer, the oldest patient age was 12.6 years.

Dinutuximab (Unituxin) is indicated for the treatment of neuroblastoma, an extracranial solid cancer that occurs in children. There are no studies in pregnant animals or humans.

The remaining 38 agents can be classified into the following categories: anticoagulant (2), antidiarrheal (1), antidiabetic (1), antidote (3), antiemetic (1), antifungal (1), antilipemic (2), antineoplastic (13), antipsychotic (2), antiviral (1), bile acid (2), cardiovascular (2), female sexual dysfunction (1), immunomodulator (1), lysosomal acid lipase deficiency (1), parathyroid hormone (1), pyrimidine analog (1), and respiratory (2).

Only two (cholic acid and ivabradine) of these 38 drugs have any human pregnancy data. Thus, the embryo-fetal risk has to be estimated using only animal data. However, an analysis of 1,154 drugs found that animal data raised the possibility of human developmental toxicity in 311 drugs, which was eventually confirmed in 75 drugs (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Dec;213[6]:810-5). Nevertheless, in some cases the maternal benefit will outweigh the risk based on animal data.


The two anticoagulants are cangrelor (Kengreal), indicated as an adjunct to percutaneous coronary intervention to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, and edoxaban (Savaysa), to reduce the risk of stroke and embolism in patients with atrial fibrillation and for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Although the animal data for cangrelor suggest moderate risk (developmental toxicity in one animal species), the potential benefit to the mother outweighs the risk. The animal data for edoxaban suggest low risk.


Eluxadoline (Viberzi) is indicated for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. The animal data suggest low risk.


The animal data also suggest low risk for insulin degludec (Tresiba), a long-acting human insulin analog.


Sugammadex (Bridion), an antidote, is indicated for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade induced by rocuronium and vecuronium in adults undergoing surgery. The animal data suggest risk (developmental toxicity in two or more animal species). Another antidote, idarucizumab (Praxbind) is a humanized monoclonal antibody fragment. It is indicated to reverse the anticoagulant effects of dabigatran. Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted. If indicated, the drug should not be withheld because of pregnancy. The third antidote is patiromer (Veltassa). It is a potassium binder used for the treatment of hyperkalemia. It should not be used for life-threatening hyperkalemia because of its delayed onset of action. It is not absorbed systemically. Because it can bind other drugs in the gut, other oral medications should be given at least 6 hours before or after patiromer.



The antiemetic drug rolapitant (Varubi) is used, in combination with other antiemetics, for patients receiving antineoplastics. Animal data suggest moderate risk.


The triazole antifungal, isavuconazonium (Cresemba) is used for the treatment of invasive aspergillosis or invasive mucormycosis. Low doses of the drug caused perinatal death and skeletal defects in rats, similar to other azole antifungal agents.

Antilipemic agents

There are two antilipemic agents; alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha). Alirocumab, a monoclonal antibody, is combined with statin therapy. Statins are contraindicated in pregnancy because interruption of cholesterol-lowering therapy during pregnancy should have no effect on the long-term treatment of hyperlipidemia and there is potential for embryo-fetal risk. Thus, alirocumab is also contraindicated during pregnancy. The same reasoning applies to evolocumab, an immunoglobulin, that is also given with statins.

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