Advocacy for Misoprostol, Advocacy for Saving Lives

By Katie Millar

Katie Millar is a technical writer for the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF), where this article originally appeared. 

Hundreds of thousands of women die every year giving birth. The leading causes of these deaths—hemorrhage, infection, and eclampsia—are mostly preventable and treatable. Yet, proven treatments for these conditions are not reaching the women who need them most. In the poorest parts of the world, one in six women will die giving birth, compared to one in 30,000 in Northern Europe. To die giving birth must not be an expectation; we must make it the rarest exception.

Post-partum hemorrhage (PPH), the leading cause of maternal mortality, is mostly preventable. The onset of PPH is usually sudden, and if a woman is not giving birth in a well-equipped facility, she will face many delays getting care—delays that could cost her life. Since PPH needs immediate and effective treatment, prevention is a better option, especially for women who live far from a facility.

A prevention strategy has been discovered. The drug Misoprostol is a tablet that, when given immediately after the baby is born, can prevent life-threatening PPH. Misoprostol works by causing strong uterine contractions, putting pressure on potentially leaky blood vessels. Although this strategy is simple and inexpensive, there are many controversies surrounding its implementation.

Despite the WHO adding misoprostol to its essential medicines list for all countries, some contest its scale-up. One reason is that misoprostol can be used to cause abortion if taken before the clinically indicated period, or the time immediately following birth. To advocate for this life-saving commodity, Family Care International has created an advocacy tool to facilitate the uptake and scale-up of misoprostol to save lives.miso brief

miso briefThis publication, available in English and soon in French, provides national advocates and civil society organizations guidance in conducting effective advocacy for the successful uptake of misoprostol for prevention and treatment of PPH. Through case studies and an Advocacy for Access Framework, the publication provides concrete examples to support misoprostol’s availability and use at the national level.

If you are working to prevent maternal mortality, please take a moment to explore this resource. Advocating for the scale-up of misoprostol can have a profound effect on decreasing the number of women who die giving birth each year.

Are you currently working in preventing PPH and/or the scale-up of misoprostol? Please contact Katie Millar if you are interested in being a guest blogger for the MHTF. We, and many others in the field, would benefit greatly to hear about your experiences.

Budgeting for better maternal and child health

Catherine Lalonde is FCI’s senior program officer for Francophone Africa.

I just returned from a week in Senegal where I attended a regional workshop to train civil society, parliamentarians and the media on budget analysis and advocacy for maternal and child health.

For years now, countries across the globe have said that maternal health is one of their top priorities; they’ve made statements, built coalitions, and developed strategies. On the surface, it seems as though a lot is happening in the realm of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH). Despite all the rhetoric, little progress has been made in improving the health of mothers and children, especially in the poorest countries in the world.

Since I started working at FCI a year ago, I have mainly been involved in advocacy projects aimed at keeping governments accountable to their commitments. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Kenya, we and our partners are constantly asking governments to invest in and implement programs that will improve RMNCH in their countries.  Whenever we question why contraceptives aren’t available in the villages or why health centers are not staffed with qualified personnel, we almost always gets the same answers: there’s no money, we don’t have the funding, and we can’t afford it.

A budget is the single best indicator of a country’s priorities and the best way to tell whether a country is putting its money where its mouth is and whether or not it has taken steps towards fulfilling its maternal and child health commitments.

Fatimata Kané
Fatimata Kané, FCI-Mali national director, explains the importance of budget advocacy in improving RMNCH outcomes.

Organized by Harmonization for Health in Africa, UNICEF, WHO, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), Save the Children, the InterParliamentary Union and FCI, the three-day budget advocacy workshop brought together members of local NGOs and reporters, along with parliamentarians and representatives from the ministries of finance and of health from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

A budget is public property; it represents the money that belongs to each and every citizen of a country and therefore, the public should have a genuine say in how the money is distributed and spent. But the countries represented in the workshop had budgets that rank among the least transparent in the world, according to the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey, which reveals what information is made public and when, as well as who gets to contribute to the process and how often. Of the workshop’s participating countries, Burkina Faso’s budget had the best transparency score– a measly 23 out of a 100; Niger, with the least transparent budget, scored a depressing 4 out of 100, with zero meaningful opportunities for civil society to contribute to the country’s budgeting process.

The workshop facilitators emphasized the important role the budget plays in RMNCH and the financial costs of not investing in RMNCH. It also taught how good health policies are developed and costed, and provided options for increasing fiscal space – the money to fund these policies – within the existing budget. This workshop provided participants with an outline of the budgeting process, and all of the opportunities in which civil society should be able to contribute. At the end, each of the delegations developed advocacy objectives and strategies to improve civil society’s contribution to the budgeting process in order to prioritize health. For example, the Burkina Faso delegation chose to advocate for increased investment in information systems to better track health data while the Malian delegation chose to focus advocacy on ensuring that Mali meets the Abuja declaration pledge to dedicate 15% of its budget to health.

A good friend of mine who works in finance once told me that talking about money scares people, that people often feel as though they don’t have enough knowledge to contribute and are too embarrassed to say so. The organizers and I were afraid that the workshop would be too long, too technical and hard to follow, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The participants lapped up every word on every slide, and were thrilled to be equipped with the knowledge of the role they can play in ensuring that their country’s budget prioritizes maternal and child health.

The presentation on increasing fiscal space even got a standing ovation!

 

 

Advocacy success story: Burkina Faso broadens access to misoprostol, an essential maternal health medicine

By Brahima Bassane, MD

[Version française ci-dessous]

Brahima Bassane, FCI’s national director in Burkina Faso, is a public health physician.

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) — excessive, uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth —remains the leading cause of maternal death worldwide.  In countries like Burkina Faso, where many births still occur at home, the drug misoprostol offers a number of advantages for preventing and treating PPH because (unlike oxytocin, considered the ‘gold standard’ medicine for PPH) it can be easily administered and does not require cold storage. In settings with limited infrastructure and lack of skilled birth attendants, misoprostol may be a woman’s only chance for surviving PPH.

Access to high-quality medicines is part of every citizen’s right to the highest attainable standard of health. But in spite of misoprostol’s proven safety and efficacy, decision-makers in some countries have been reluctant to authorize its widespread availability, or are unaware of the available evidence. Many governments have not included misoprostol in their national essential medicine list (EML), which is often used as the basis for importation, distribution, and marketing of medicines for the public health system.

FCI works to support wider understanding, acceptance, and use of misoprostol for PPH. This year in Burkina Faso, our efforts — with a range of advocacy partners — to persuade government officials to deem misoprostol for PPH an essential medicine were successful. This success story offers a potential model for effective, collaborative, focused advocacy in other countries where misoprostol’s lifesaving benefits are not yet broadly available.

Our advocacy began in earnest last September, when FCI convened a meeting  to share the latest research on misoprostol for PPH and to develop advocacy strategies that would convince the government to take action. These committed and motivated maternal health champions called for the widespread availability of misoprostol, stating that the inclusion of misoprostol in the national EML was an urgent national priority.

Following the meeting, a small advisory committee was assigned the task of reaching key government decision makers. The committee submitted a letter and technical note to the Director-General of Pharmacy, Medicines, and Laboratories (DGPML) requesting inclusion of misoprostol on the EML. A DGPML technical committee then reviewed the submitted application, gathering all available evidence on misoprostol. During this review period, FCI and our partners met again with the Director-General of the DGPML, who stated his support for misoprostol as a critical tool for reducing the burden of PPH in Burkina Faso. FCI and partners also met with the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Health, who affirmed the government’s responsibility for ensuring the availability of misoprostol for PPH at public health facilities. He also came out in support of misoprostol distribution at the community level, and recommended ongoing supervision and training to ensure its correct use.

In February of this year, all of these advocacy efforts paid off: the 2014 revision of the national EML (Liste Nationale Des Medicaments et Consommables Medicaux Essentials, Edition 2014) includes misoprostol both for prevention and for treatment of PPH.

While this is an important step in making misoprostol available in the government health system, FCI and our partners will continue advocating and working to ensure that all women have access to a uterotonic , like misoprostol or oxytocin, for effective prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage. These efforts are critical for countries’ efforts to fulfill the promise of MDG 5 and put an end, once and for all, to preventable maternal death.

Learn more about FCI’s work on misoprostol for PPH here.

To join an online community on misoprostol for PPH, please click here.

 

Réussite exemplaire du plaidoyer : Le Burkina Faso élargit l’accès au misoprostol, un médicament essentiel de la santé maternelle

Par Brahima Bassane, MD– médecin en titre

Directeur national de FCI au Burkina Faso, Brahima Bassane est médecin de santé publique.

L’Hémorragie du post-partum (HPP) — des saignements excessifs, difficiles à arrêter survenant après l’accouchement — demeure la principale cause de décès maternels à travers le monde. Dans des pays tels que le Burkina Faso où un nombre important des accouchements surviennent encore à domicile, le médicament misoprostol fournit nombre d’avantages pour la prévention et le traitement de l’HPP dans la mesure où il peut être facilement administré et ne nécessite pas une conservation à dans un réfrigérateur (contrairement à l’ocytocine qui est considérée comme le médicament ‘de référence’ pour l’HPP).Le misoprostol peut représenter la seule chance de survie d’une femme en proie à l’HPP dans les milieux communautaires qui disposent d’un nombre insuffisant de centres de santé et d’accoucheuses qualifiées.

L’accès à des médicaments de haute qualité est un des droits de chaque citoyen pour lui permettre de jouir du meilleur état de santé possible. Toutefois, en dépit de l’innocuité et de l’efficacité reconnues du misoprostol, les décideurs ont été dans certains pays, réticents à autoriser sa mise à disposition généralisée ou ils ignorent les données disponibles. Plusieurs gouvernements n’ont pas inclus le misoprostol dans leur liste des médicaments essentiels (LME) qui est souvent utilisée comme critère pour l’importation, la distribution et la commercialisation de médicaments pour le système de santé publique.

FCI œuvre en vue de soutenir une meilleure compréhension, acceptation et utilisation du misoprostol pour l’HPP. Au Burkina Faso, nos initiatives —de concert avec un éventail de partenaires du plaidoyer —visant à convaincre cette année les responsables gouvernementaux de considérer le misoprostol pour l’HPP comme un médicament essentiel, ont été couronnées de succès. Cette réussite exemplaire fournit un modèle potentiel de plaidoyer efficace, mené en collaboration et bien ciblé dans d’autres pays où les avantages salvateurs du misoprostol ne sont pas encore largement disponibles.

Notre plaidoyer a véritablement débuté en septembre 2013 lorsque FCI a organisé une réunion en vue de partager les résultats des toutes dernières recherches sur le misoprostol pour l’HPP et de mettre au point des stratégies de plaidoyer qui convaincraient le gouvernement à prendre les bonnes décisions. Ces défenseurs engagés et motivés de la santé maternelle se sont prononcés pour la mise à disposition généralisée du misoprostol en indiquant que l’inclusion du misoprostol dans la Liste nationale des médicaments essentiels était une priorité nationale.

Suite à la réunion, la tâche de prendre contact avec les principaux décideurs gouvernementaux a été confiée à un petit comité consultatif. Le comité a présenté au Directeur Général de la Pharmacie, du Médicament et des Laboratoires (DGPML) une lettre et une note technique sollicitant l’inclusion du misoprostol dans la LME. Un comité technique de la DGPML a ensuite examiné la demande soumise en recueillant toutes les données disponibles relatives au misoprostol. Au cours de cette période d’examen, FCI et nos partenaires se sont réunis avec le Directeur Général de la GPML qui a exprimé son soutien pour le misoprostol comme outil crucial pour alléger le fardeau de l’HPP au Burkina Faso. Cette équipe restreinte de FCI et ses partenaires s’est également réunie avec le Secrétaire Général du Ministère de la Santé qui a affirmé la responsabilité du gouvernement à assurer la disponibilité du misoprostol pour l’HPP dans les établissements de santé. Il s’est également prononcé en faveur de la distribution du misoprostol jusqu’à l’échelle communautaire  tout en recommandant une supervision suivie et la formation afin de garantir son utilisation adéquate.

En février au cours de cette année 2014, toutes ces initiatives du plaidoyer ont porté leurs fruits : la révision en 2014 de la LNMCE (Liste Nationale Des Médicaments et Consommables Médicaux Essentiels, Édition 2014) comprend notamment le misoprostol pour la prévention ainsi que le traitement de l’HPP.

Bien que la mise à disposition du misoprostol dans le système public de santé constitue une étape importante, FCI et nos partenaires continueront à plaider et à œuvrer pour veiller à ce que toutes les femmes aient accès à un utérotonique tel que le misoprostol ou l’ocytocine pour une prévention et un traitement efficaces de l’hémorragie du post-partum. Ces initiatives sont cruciales pour les efforts des pays à tenir leur promesse pour l’OMD5 et à définitivement mettre un terme aux décès maternels évitables.

Trouvez de plus amples informations relatives aux travaux de FCI sur le misoprostol pour l’HPP.

Veuillez cliquer ici pour intégrer une communauté virtuelle sur le misoprostol pour l’HPP.

Building the momentum: Misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage in Pakistan

By Imtiaz Kamal

Imtiaz Kamal is the president of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan. She has led a “one-woman crusade” to promote the midwifery profession for more than 50 years.

In June 2013, all four provinces of Pakistan—Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan—included misoprostol for the prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) on their respective Essential Medicines Lists (EMLs). EMLs indicate medicines that “satisfy the priority health care needs of the population” and should be affordable and available at all times within the context of a functioning health system. As advocates working towards improving reproductive and maternal health in Pakistan, we’ve come a long way in our mission to expand access to misoprostol. In this post, I share our advocacy strategy and the challenges we faced.

The sixth most populous country in the world, Pakistan has an alarmingly high maternal mortality ratio: 260 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Every year, almost 12,000 women in Pakistan die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications, accounting for almost 5% of the world’s maternal deaths, and PPH—excessive bleeding after childbirth—causes 27% of these deaths. About 57% of deliveries still take place without a skilled birth attendant present, and in these situations, women often do not have the means to address life-threatening complications when they arise. Fortunately, there is a safe and effective solution to treat and prevent PPH—misoprostol, a low-cost medicine that is practical for use in both facility and home births.

For many years, the National Committee for Maternal and Neonatal Health, the Midwifery Association of Pakistan (MAP), and the Association for Mothers and Newborns, with support from the Research & Advocacy Fund (RAF), championed the widespread availability of misoprostol in Pakistan.

One step for improving access to this essential medicine was to get provincial governments to include misoprostol on their respective EMLs. Then, the provincial governments can supply it to the public sector health facilities, which would provide this essential medicine at minimal or no cost to women wherever they live.

Usually, the Pakistani government follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) EML, but due to misoprostol’s association as an “abortion drug,” we had to sell it to policymakers, highlighting misoprostol’s huge lifesaving potential and the urgency to expand access to women who need it. Misoprostol is an essential part of a package of strategies to improve maternal health, and we must ensure that its use for other indications does not lead to limitations on its availability for PPH.

We devised an advocacy strategy to share the evidence and stimulate supportive policy change through:

  • Public education and awareness: fact sheets and case studies in English and Urdu, press conferences, trainings with journalists, and air time on television;
  • Advocacy with decision-makers, including high-level Ministry of Health authorities, district health officers, OB/GYNs, and other health providers: face-to-face meetings  and dissemination seminars in Punjab, Sindh, and the federal capital, Islamabad, to share guidelines from WHO and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).
Advocates conducted seminars with health care providers to present evidence on the life-saving potential of misoprostol for PPH and post-abortion care (PAC). (Image: Midwifery Association of Pakistan)

Our advocacy strategy led to very specific, positive outcomes:

  • Endorsements from key champions: The Director General of Health in Sindh province became a close ally  and guided us on how to move forward in garnering support from  OB/GYNs and  district health officers;
  •  A widely distributed position paper on misoprostol for PPH and post-abortion care (PAC) was signed by six professional organisations working for maternal and neonatal health;
  • The National Assembly decided that the federal government should provide training to midwives and other health care providers on the administration of misoprostol to manage incomplete abortion and miscarriage and prevent PPH.  In Sindh, the Directorate of Nursing came to us for guidance, and the first misoprostol workshop for midwifery teachers is scheduled for late February 2014.
Midwives will receive training 0n the administration of misoprostol for PPH and PAC. (Image: Midwifery Association of Pakistan)

Our advocacy efforts weren’t without challenges, however. For example, many physicians were cautious or opposed to making misoprostol more widely available. The most senior OB/GYN (from a province with very high maternal mortality) raised a number of concerns after a presentation we held on misoprostol, commenting: “It is not candy. We cannot let it be available freely.”  We explained that, given the high prevalence of home births, we need to invest in solutions, such as misoprostol, that save lives now, until we can achieve the long-term goals of strengthening health systems and increasing rates of facility births. Distributing misoprostol doesn’t replace efforts to promote skilled care, but we need to recognize the reality that many women are not able to give birth in well-equipped health facilities with skilled staff. All women, wherever they decide to give birth, need access to effective medicines.

We faced similar comments and questions at every advocacy meeting. But this didn’t stop us; we continued to make our case. Eventually, that very same OB/GYN signed our position paper on misoprostol.

The movement to achieve national recognition of misoprostol for PPH has been challenging, but we are making progress, turning heads, and changing minds. Step by step, we push forward. Now that we have achieved Federal approval of misoprostol, we are working to advance community level distribution of misoprostol to women in their eighth month of pregnancy. As a global community, with partners such as FCI rallying behind the cause, we will succeed in making sure women no longer have to fear for their lives when giving birth.

For more information:

Mapping Misoprostol for Postpartum Hemorrhage Regional Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities South Asia

Advocacy for PPH Prevention and PAC: PowerPoint Presentation at the Research and Advocacy Fund 2nd Annual Conference