Pregnant women taking antiviral medications to treat hepatitis C (HCV) and/or HIV with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or antihypertensives may have an increased risk of birth defects or stunted fetal growth, although these antiviral drugs have not been shown to directly cause harm to a fetus, according to a study published in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Prior studies in animal models suggest that NSAIDs could be associated with an increased risk of birth defects and that antihypertensives may slow fetal growth. 

Tomo Nabekura, PhD, from the Aichi Gakuin University in Nagoya, Japan, and colleagues noted that antiviral drugs inhibited the transport of two “surrogate” treatments across human placental BeWo cells due the same mechanism for attaching to the transporter proteins. This suggests that for women taking both antivirals and NSAIDs and/or antihypertensives, the latter could accumulate in the fetal circulation and lead to fetal damage.

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“The new research shows that more detailed knowledge of placental drug transport is badly needed,” stated D Nabekura. “Investigators need to conduct in vivo pharmacokinetic studies of drug transfer in the developing placenta, and pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the fetuses.”


1. Nabekura T, Kawasaki T, Kamiya Y, et al. Effects of antiviral drugs on organic anion transport in human placental BeWo cells. Antimicrob Agents Chem. 2015; doi: 10.1128/AAC.01634-15.

This article originally appeared on MPR