Obstetric-Fetal Pharmacology Research Centers (OPRC) Network


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

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 help clinicians protect women's health, improve birth outcomes, and reduce infant mortality.

Many factors influence pharmacology during normal and abnormal pregnancies, such as a lengthened period of intestinal transfer, increased cardiac output, increased glomerular filtration rate, 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 initially established in 2004 through the Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch and recompeted in 2014. The network currently includes three research centers.

Funded through the U54 cooperative agreement mechanism, each OPRC contains three components:

  • A pharmacology component that conducts PK, PD, and pharmacogenetic studies
  • A clinical study 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 studies of the efficacy, pharmacology, placental transfer, and placental biotransformation of drugs and therapeutics intended to:

  • Treat gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • Determine optimal use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants in pregnant women
  • Understand pravastatin for the prevention of preeclampsia in high-risk women
  • Quantify the effect of pregnancy on buprenorphine PK and PD
  • Alter uterine activity, such as with 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

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