Allowing community pharmacists to supply low-dose aspirin to pregnant women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia could prevent the condition, an expert says.

National guidelines suggest that women at risk of developing the condition should begin to take a low dose of aspirin at 12 weeks of pregnancy, however over half of all women who are at risk are missing out on the treatment.

Pre-eclampsia affects up to 6% of pregnancies and is the leading cause of premature birth, restricted fetal growth and stillbirth.

In the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, Consultant obstetrician Dr Joanna Girling of West Middlesex University Hospital, London said that she believed the reason many women are not getting access to the treatment is because of concerns surrounding the safety of taking drugs during pregnancy and because midwives are not able to prescribe.

Midwives usually advise pregnant mothers to consult their GP, but getting an appointment can take considerable time and could mean some women miss out on getting the treatment when they need it, she added.

To help women get the access they need, Dr Girling believes community pharmacists should be allowed to supply low-dose aspirin to women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia.

This would mean women could be treated more easily and faster. It would work out cheaper for women, who may otherwise buy the ‘unnecessary branded pregnancy-related nutrients and supplements,’ she suggested.

However, as it stands, pharmacists are not allowed to supply pregnant women with low-dose aspirin.

‘If we are serious about increasing uptake of a nationally recommended, evidence-based, life-saving, low-cost intervention, how about developing a national [protocol] to allow community pharmacists to supply low-dose aspirin to women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia,’ Dr Girling suggested.