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Obstetric-Fetal Pharmacology Research Unit (OPRU) Network

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The mission of the OPRCs, formerly the Obstetric-Fetal Pharmaceutical Research Units (OPRU) Network, is to improve the safety and effective use of therapeutic drugs in women during pregnancy and lactation. The overall goal of the OPRCs is to promote and facilitate cooperative multidisciplinary research to enhance the understanding of obstetric pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

The OPRCs provide the expert infrastructure needed to test therapeutic drugs during pregnancy. The Centers allow researchers to conduct safe, technically sophisticated, and complex studies that will help clinicians protect women's health, improve birth outcomes, and reduce infant mortality.

A number of factors influence pharmacology during both normal and abnormal pregnancies, such as a lengthened period of intestinal transfer, increased cardiac output, increased glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and altered composition of plasma sex hormones. However, very little is known about the effects of these variables on drugs that are necessary for the health and well-being of pregnant women and their fetuses.

The Centers were established in 2004 through the Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch  and currently include four research units around the country, plus a Data Coordinating Center (DCC).

Funded through the U10 cooperative agreement mechanism, each OPRC contains three components:

  • A pharmacology component that conducts pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacogenetic studies
  • A clinical studies component that tests the disposition and efficacy of drugs whose pharmacology is affected by pregnancy
  • A multidisciplinary basic or nonclinical research component to investigate the mechanisms of drug disposition and response in pregnancy

Topic Areas

Current OPRC research topics include (but are not limited to) studies of the efficacy, pharmacology, placental transfer, and placental biotransformation of drugs and therapeutics intended to:

  • Treat gestational diabetes and type II diabetes, such as glyburide and metformin
  • Alter uterine activity, such as drugs or therapeutics used to delay or prevent preterm birth
  • Treat severe nausea and other side effects of pregnancy
  • Treat other serious conditions in pregnant women, including cancer, rejection of a transplanted organ, and high blood pressure

More Information


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