By around the 37th week of pregnancy, babies will have developed to the point that they are able to survive outside the womb. Any child born before this point is referred to as premature. Thanks to the enormous progress in neonatology (Greek: “the study of newborns”), which is a branch of paediatrics, even children who come into this world early now have a good chance at a healthy life. And yet the beginning is still a challenge for the very littlest patients: their survival often depends on how well developed their lungs are.
SUPPORTING AND OVERCOMING INITIAL DIFFICULTIES
Infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)
For more than 25 years, one of our drugs has been an essential component in the initial care of premature babies suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. This means that we have been able to help more than 3,7 million children around the world. Untreated IRDS is one of the most common causes of death for premature babies. The root cause of this complex disorder is immaturity of the lungs. Before the 34th week of pregnancy, babies do not produce enough surfactant. This English neologism (surface active agent) refers to a special surface-active substance in the lungs that lines the alveoli. Surfactant makes it easier to breathe in on each inspiration and stops the air sacs collapsing in on themselves on expiration. Chiesi has developed a natural surfactant compound that is introduced into the premature baby’s lungs and decreases the effort it takes for them to breathe.
Apnoea (respiratory failure)
Life-threating events, such as respiratory failure (apnoea), are sadly more common the more immature the premature baby. Many milder cases can be treated with respiratory support. If this is not successful then medications containing caffeine are a likely next step. In 2011, Chiesi launched Germany’s first, and so far only, approved finished medicinal products for this application.
Pain management for premature babies and newborns
Heel prick, vaccinations, injections, removal of wound closure: On average, neonatal intensive care mentored premature babies and newborns experience between nine and seventeen painful procedures like this per day.1,2,3 Painkillers are used with caution - the major part of medicines are not approved for use in premature babies and newborns.
Chiesi offers with a glucose solution a medical product, which is used for distraction from pain by overlapping pain stimulation in premature babies and newborns during painful procedures.
Generally speaking, there is a high and as yet unmet demand in neonatology for effective medications that are specifically approved for these tiny patients. Chiesi has set itself the goal of helping our smallest patients along their challenging journey into life. We are working on multiple research projects to develop alternative treatments for premature babies, for example, to counteract brain injuries and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (one of the most common chronic lung disorders among premature babies) in future.