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J Perinat Med. 1998;26(6):458-65.

Treatment of preterm labor with the oxytocin and vasopressin antagonist Atosiban.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital of Lund, Sweden.


Oxytocin is involved in the regulation of preterm and term labor but the exact effect mechanisms are not fully understood. A regulatory action by vasopressin may also exist. The concentrations of oxytocin and vasopressin V1a receptors in myometrium from pregnant women are high before and in the beginning of labor both preterm and at term. Atosiban has high affinity for both these receptors and is a competitive oxytocin and vasopressin antagonist. The inhibitory effect of Atosiban on oxytocin induced activity on isolated myometrium correlates significantly with the concentration of the oxytocin receptors. Inhibition of preterm contractions with Atosiban was first reported by Akerlund et al 1987. Goodwin et al compared the effect of Atosiban to placebo in threatening preterm labor and the antagonist was in this trial significantly more effective than placebo in reducing the frequency of contractions (55% vs. 23%, p < 0.001). The same authors also reported successful tocolysis with the drug in actual preterm labor. Atosiban is currently in phase III of clinical development and seems to have the same effectiveness but fewer side-effects compared to beta-mimetics. These properties suggests that Atosiban may offer advantages over existing therapies in acute treatment of preterm labor.

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