Merck & Co and Ferring Pharmaceuticals have linked up with the World Health Organisation to solve the problem of excessive bleeding in women after childbirth, the main cause of maternal death in the developing world.

The partners are looking to advance a new formulation of Ferring's carbetocin for post-partum haemorrhage which is designed to be stable at room temperature, "even in hot and tropical climates". Currently oxytocin, the standard medicine for the prevention of excessive bleeding, is temperature-sensitive "and requires sustained cold distribution and storage in hot climates", Merck and Ferring noted.

The WHO will conduct a 29,000 women-study in 12 countries to evaluate room-temperature-stable carbetocin with oxytocin and if the results are positive, the partners say they will work together to make the medicine available in developing countries "that have a high burden of maternal mortality at an affordable and sustainable public-sector price".

Merck chief executive Kenneth Frazier (pictured) said "it would be a real breakthrough to help prevent the number-one cause of women dying in childbirth in the most vulnerable parts of the globe". The company had previously set up Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality.