Drugs, Pregnancy & Lactation

Novel drugs approved in 2019


In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved 42 drugs, 6 of which will not be discussed here because of space limitations: recarbrio, a three-drug combination, containing imipenem, cilastatin, and relebactam; polatuzumab (Polivy) combined with bendamustine and a rituximab product; pretomanid combined with bedaquiline and linezolid; romosozumab (Evenity) for postmenopausal women; and alpelisib (Piqray) for postmenopausal women. In addition, darolutamide (Nubeqa) will not be included because it is indicated for the treatment of patients with prostate cancer. The remaining 36 agents are listed alphabetically below with the trade names in parentheses.

Empty pill bottles and pills PhotoDisk

The molecular weights (if available), rounded to the nearest whole number, are shown in parentheses. As with nearly all drugs, avoiding these agents in pregnancy is the best choice.

Air polymer-type a intrauterine foam (ExEm Foam), an ultrasound contrast agent, is indicated for sonohysterosalpingography to assess fallopian tube patency in women with known or suspected infertility. Animal studies have not been conducted, and the agent is contraindicated in pregnancy.

Afamelanotide implant (Scenesse) (1,647) is a melanocortin 1 receptor agonist that is indicated to increase pain-free light exposure in adult patients with a history of phototoxic reactions from erythropoietic protoporphyria. The drug caused no embryofetal toxicity in two species of rats. The molecular weight suggests that it will not cross the placenta, at least early in pregnancy.

Alpelisib (Piqray) (441) is a kinase inhibitor that is combined with fulvestrant for the treatment of advanced breast cancer in women and men. The molecular weight suggests that it can cross the human placenta. It is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause embryofetal toxicity.

Bremelanotide (Vyleesi) (1,025) is indicated for the treatment of premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual disorder. The drug caused fetal harm in dogs and mice. If a pregnant woman is exposed to the drug, health care providers are encouraged to call the VYLEESI Pregnancy Exposure Registry at 877-411-2510.

Brolucizumab (Beovu) (26,000) is a human vascular endothelial growth factor that is indicated for the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration. In animals, it caused malformations, embryofetal resorption, and decreased fetal weight. Other adverse effects were follicular development, corpus luteum function, and fertility.

Caplacizumab (Cablivi) (28,000) is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura, in combination with plasma exchange and immunosuppressive therapy. If used in pregnancy, there is a risk of hemorrhage in the mother and fetus. In guinea pigs given intramuscular doses of the drug, there was no evidence of adverse developmental outcomes.

Cefiderocol (Fetroja) (3,044) is an IV cephalosporin antibiotic indicated for the treatment of urinary tract infections, including pyelonephritis. The manufacturer states that it should be used in patients 18 years of age or older who have limited or no alternative treatment options. Consistent with other cephalosporins, no developmental adverse effects were observed in rats and mice.

Cenobamate (Xcopri) (268) is indicated for the treatment of partial-onset seizures in adults. In pregnant animals given the drug, there was increased embryo-fetal mortality, decreased fetal and offspring body weight, and neurobehavioral and reproductive impairment in offspring. If a pregnant woman receives this drug, encourage her to enroll in the North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry by calling the toll-free number 1-888-233-2334.

Crizanlizumab (Adakveo) (146,000) is indicated to reduce the frequency of vaso-occlusive crises in patients with sickle cell disease. In monkeys given doses slightly higher than those given to humans, there was increased fetal loss (abortions/stillbirths).

Entrectinib (Rozlytrek) (561) is a kinase inhibitor indicated for the treatment of cancer. The drug was teratogenic in rats. It is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause embryo-fetal toxicity.

Erdafitinib (Balversa) (447), a kinase inhibitor, is indicated for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma. In rats given doses during organogenesis with maternal exposures less than human exposures, the drug was teratogenic and caused embryofetal death. The manufacturer states that women of reproductive potential should use effective contraception during treatment and for 1 month after the last dose. The same advice was provided for male patients with female partners of reproductive potential. It is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause embryofetal toxicity.

Fedratinib (Inrebic) (616), a kinase inhibitor, is indicated for patients with intermediate-2 or high-risk primary or secondary myelofibrosis. The drug was teratogenic in rats when doses that were about 0.1 times the human exposure based on AUC (area under the curve) at the recommended daily dose during organogenesis. It is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause embryofetal toxicity.

Fluorodopa f18 (214) is a radioactive diagnostic agent. It is indicated for use in positron emission tomography to visualize dopaminergic nerve terminals in the striatum for evaluation of adult patients with suspected parkinsonian syndromes. The potential for adverse pregnant outcomes is based on the radiation dose and the gestational timing of exposure.

Givosiran sodium (Givlaari) (17,2460) is an aminolevulinate synthase 1-directed small interfering RNA given subcutaneously. It is indicated for the treatment of adults with acute hepatic porphyria. Doses less than 10 times the human dose in rats and rabbits produced maternal toxicity. In rats there was increased postimplantation loss, and in rats there was skeletal variation (incomplete ossification of pubes).

Golodirsen (Vyondys 53) (8,647) is indicated for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy given intravenously. There are no human or animal data available to assess the use of this drug during pregnancy.

Istradefylline (Nourianz) (384) is an adenosine receptor antagonist given orally. It is indicated as adjunctive treatment to levodopa/carbidopa in patients with Parkinson’s disease experiencing “off” episodes. In pregnant rats and rabbits, the drug was related to teratogenicity, embryo-fetal and offspring mortality, and growth deficits at clinically relevant exposures.

Lasmiditan (Reyvow) (436), a serotonin receptor agonist, is indicated for acute treatment of migraine with or without aura. In animals, the drug caused increased incidences of fetal defects, increased embryo-fetal and offspring mortality, and decreased fetal body weight at maternal exposures less than (rabbits) or greater than (rat) those observed clinically.

Lefamulin (Xenleta) (568) is an antibacterial agent available for oral and IV administration. They are indicated for the treatment of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. The drug was teratogenic in rats at systemic exposures lower than those in humans, an increased incidence of post-implantation fetal loss and stillbirths, and decreased fetal body weights and ossification. There was also an apparent delay in sexual maturation in rats.

Luspatercept (Reblozyl) (76,000) is given subcutaneously for the treatment of anemia in patients with beta thalassemia who require regular red blood cell transfusions. In rats and rabbits, the drug cause increased embryo-fetal mortality, alteration to growth, and structural defects at exposures (based on AUC) that were about 13 times (rats) and 18 times (rabbits) the maximum recommended human dose.

Pexidartinib (Turalio) (454) is an oral kinase inhibitor that is indicated for the treatment of symptomatic tenosynovial giant cell tumor associated with severe morbidity or functional limitations and not amenable with surgery. In rats and rabbits, the drug caused malformations, increased post-implantation loss, and abortion at exposures nearly equal to the human exposure. It is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause embryo-fetal toxicity.

Pitolisant HCl (Wakix) (296) is an histamine-3 receptor antagonist/inverse agonist indicated for the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy. The drug has caused maternal and embryofetal toxicity in rats and rabbits at doses greater than and equal to 13 times and greater than 4 times the maximum human dose, respectively. The manufacturer has a pregnancy exposure registry that patients can contact at 1-800-833-7460.

Prabotulinum toxin A (Jeuveau) (900,000) is an acetylcholine release inhibitor and a neuromuscular blocking agent indicated for the temporary improvement in the appearance of moderate to severe glabellar lines associated with corrugator and/or procerus muscle activity. The drug caused no adverse embryo-fetal in rats with doses up to 12 times the human dose.

Risankizumab-rzaa (Skyrizi) (molecular weight unknown), an interleukin-23 antagonist, is used for the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. In pregnant monkeys, doses that were 20 times the maximum human dose increased fetal/infant loss.

Selinexor (Xpovio) (443) is an oral nuclear export inhibitor given in combination with dexamethasone for the treatment of relapsed or refractory myeloma. At doses lower than those used clinically, the drug caused structural abnormalities and alterations to growth in fetal rats.

Siponimod (Mayzent) (1,149) is an oral sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator. It is indicated for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. At low doses, the drug caused embryotoxicity and fetotoxicity in rats and rabbits including embryofetal deaths and abortions. The drug was teratogenic in both species.

Solriamfetol (Sunosi) (231) is an oral dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that is indicated to improve wakefulness in adult patients with excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea. The drug caused maternal and fetal toxicities in rats and rabbits and was teratogenic. The manufacturer has a pregnancy exposure registry to monitor pregnancy outcomes. Health care providers or patients can enroll in the program by calling 1-877-283-6220 or contacting the company.

Tafamidis meglumine (Vyndaqel) (503) and tafamidis (Vyndamax) (308) are indicated for the treatment of the cardiomyopathy of wild type or hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis to reduce cardiovascular mortality and cardiovascular-related hospitalization. In rabbits and rats, use of the drugs during pregnancy caused birth defects, embryo-fetal mortality, and fetal body weight reduction. Limited available data with Vyndaqel use in human pregnancy at a dose of 20 mg/day have not identified any drug-associated risks for major birth defects, miscarriage, or adverse maternal or fetal outcomes (see package insert).

Tenapanor (Ibsrela) (1,218) is indicated for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. The drug is minimally absorbed systemically, with plasma concentrations below the limit of quantification. No adverse maternal or fetal outcomes in rats or rabbits were observed. As reported by the manufacturer, in a small number of pregnant women, no drug-induced adverse maternal or fetal outcomes were identified.

Triclabendazole (Egaten) (360), an oral anthelmintic, is indicated for the treatment of fascioliasis. The drug was not teratogenic in mice and rabbits.

Trifarotene (Aklief) (460) cream is a retinoid that is indicated for the topical treatment of acne vulgaris. Animal data was related to oral retinoids and it not applicable to this agent. The manufacturer reported that available data from the use of the cream in pregnant women have not identified a drug-associated risk of major birth defects, miscarriage, or adverse maternal or fetal outcomes.


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