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FDA Withdraws Makena Approval for US Market

FDA approval for Makena, a drug used to reduce risk for preterm birth, has been formally withdrawn. The withdrawal also includes all generics (17-alpha hydroxyprogesterone caproate [17-OHPC]). Regarding any current medication in distribution, the FDA states that “Patients who have questions should talk to their healthcare provider.” Both ACOG and SMFM have addressed the situation.


Intramuscular 17-OHPC is not recommended for the primary prevention of preterm birth in patients with a history of spontaneous preterm birth

In summary, at this time, the body of evidence is equivocal regarding the effectiveness of 17-OHPC, and the referenced FDA action will limit access to 17-OHPC for patients


We agree with the FDA determination and discourage continued prescribing of 17-OHPC, including through compounding pharmacies

We agree with the FDA that there is no evidence of benefit with continued treatment

Patients currently receiving 17-OHPC can be counseled that the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has not identified evidence of harm from discontinuation prior to 37 weeks of gestation


The authors of the PROLONG trial (Progestin’s Role in Optimizing Neonatal Gestation) reported on the use of 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC) for the treatment of preterm birth (PTB)

In this study population, 250 mg 17-OHPC did not decrease recurrent PTB and was not associated with increased fetal/early infant death

On October 29, 2019, the FDA advisory committee recommended that the drug be withdrawn from the market (9 to 7 vote). On October 5, 2020, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) proposed that Makena be withdrawn from the market. At that time, the decision was made to hold further meetings and discussions. Based upon further follow-up, the CDER briefing materials for the Advisory Committee meeting (October 17-19, 2022) states

Makena has not been shown to improve neonatal outcomes from premature birth, is no longer shown to be effective for its approved use, and has known risks

The 1,708-person confirmatory trial designed to verify Makena’s clinical benefit instead failed to show that Makena has any benefit to newborns. Data from this trial, taken together with other evidence, also fail to show that Makena reduces the risk of recurrent preterm birth

For these and other reasons detailed herein, Makena should be withdrawn from the market

Background to PROLONG Trial

  • A previous study, on behalf of the NICHD, demonstrated success of IM 17-OHPC in preventing PTB (see ‘Learn More – Primary Sources)
    • Meis et al. (NEJM, 2003): 250 mg IM 17-OHPC reduced recurrent preterm birth (PTB) in women with a prior spontaneous PTB (SPTB)
      • Relative risk [RR] 0.66 (95% CI, 0.54–0.81)
  • The current PROLONG study was a ‘confirmatory trial’, performed with FDA input as a requirement for the FDA accelerated approval pathway


  • Double-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT)
  • Participants
    • ≥18 years
    • Singleton pregnancy
    • Currently 16w0d to 20w6d
    • Previous history of singleton SPTB (birth between 20w0d and 36w6d following preterm labor or PROM)
  • Groups (IM injection 1 in upper outer quadrant of the gluteus maximus) weekly until delivery or 36 weeks
    • 17-OHPC (250 mg)
    • Placebo
  • Stratified by
    • Study site
    • GA at randomization
  • Primary outcomes
    • PTB < 35 weeks
    • Composite neonatal morbidity and mortality index


  • PTB < 35w0d (p=0.72)
    • 17-OHPC: 11.0%
    • Placebo: 11.5%
    • Relative risk (RR) 0.95 (95% CI, 0.71–1.26)
  • Neonatal composite index (p=0.73)
    • 17-OHPC 5.6%
    • Placebo 5.0%
    • RR 1.12 (95% CI, 0.70–1.66)
    • Note: No differences seen in any of the individual components that were part of the composite index


Sibai et al. Obstet Gynecol, 2020

Meis Trial

  • Well designed and conducted
  • Highly statistically significant results
    • Prespecified criterion threshold of alpha=0.015 was met regarding benefit of 17-OHPC
    • Preterm birth <37 weeks: Relative risk (RR) 0.66 (95% CI, 0.54 to 0.81; P<.001)
    • Preterm births <35 weeks: RR 0.67 (95% CI, 0.48 to 0.93)
    • Preterm birth <32 weeks: RR 0.58 (95% CI, 0.37–0.91)
  • Subgroup analysis: Number of prior preterm birth | Race | Marital status | Smoking or substance use
    • Confirmed generalizability

Prolong Trial

  • Population studied was very different from that of the Meis trial (non-US)
  • Trial is underpowered based on observed event rates
    • For 90% power, PROLONG required 3,600 women for preterm birth <35 weeks and 6,000 women for neonatal composite outcome
  • PROLONG not powered for subgroup analysis, but Meis et al. did look at US subgroup and found that while not statistically significant
    • Direction and magnitude of effect <32 weeks and neonatal composite index were similar to the Meis trial

Authors’ Conclusion

We assert PROLONG was underpowered, based on substantially lower observed preterm birth rates than anticipated, and therefore was a false-negative study, rather than the Meis trial being a false-positive study

Careful assessment of these two trials is critical as removal of 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate from the U.S. marketplace may have substantial effects on public health

Learn More – Primary Sources:

FDA Commissioner and Chief Scientist Announce Decision to Withdraw Approval of Makena

ACOG Practice Advisory: Updated Clinical Guidance for the Use of Progesterone Supplementation for the Prevention of Recurrent Preterm Birth

SMFM Special Statement: Response to the Food and Drug Administration’s withdrawal of 17-alpha hydroxyprogesterone caproate

17-OHPC to Prevent Recurrent Preterm Birth in Singleton Gestations (PROLONG Study): A Multicenter, International, Randomized Double-Blind Trial

Prevention of recurrent preterm delivery by 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate. (NEJM, 2003)

Meeting of the Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee Meeting Announcement: MAKENA supplemental new drug application

FDA (October 2020): CDER proposes withdrawal of approval for Makena

Re-examining the Meis Trial for Evidence of False-Positive Results (Sibai et al. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2020)

FDA Briefing Materials for Withdrawal of Makena Approval (2022)

FDA: UPDATED INFORMATION: October 17 – 19, 2022: Hearing Announcement involving the Obstetrics, Reproductive, and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee

EPPPIC Meta-analysis Results: Progestogens for Preterm Birth Prevention


  • The EPPPIC group (Lancet, 2021) report on their systematic review of RCTs comparing vaginal progesterone, intramuscular 17-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), or oral progesterone for prevention of preterm birth


  • Systematic review and meta-analysis
    • Funded by Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
    • Evaluating Progestogens for Preventing Preterm birth International Collaborative (EPPPIC)
  • Study selection
    • Published and unpublished RCTs
    • Trials that assessed vaginal progesterone, IM 17-OHPC or oral progesterone with control, or with each other
    • Participants: Asymptomatic women at risk of preterm birth
    • Individual participant data were requested from investigators of eligible trials
    • Primary data collection before July 30, 2016, (12 months before data collection began), and July 30, 2019
    • Exclusion: Trials of progestogen to prevent early miscarriage or immediatelythreatened preterm birth
  • Outcomes
    • Preterm birth | Early preterm birth | Mid-trimester birth
    • Adverse neonatal sequelae (composite of serious neonatal complications and individually)
    • Adverse maternal outcomes were investigated as a composite and individually


  • Individual participant data available for 31 trials | 11,644 women and 16,185 offspring


  • Risk factors and indications for treatment
    • Previous spontaneous preterm birth
    • Short cervix (≤25 mm)
  • Preterm birth <34 weeks was reduced in women receiving progestogen
    • Vaginal progesterone: Relative risk (RR) 0.78 (95% CI, 0.68 to 0.90; 9 trials)
    • 17-OHPC: RR 0.83 (95% CI, 0.68 to 1.01; 5 trials)
    • Oral progesterone: RR 0.60 (95% CI, 0.40 to 0.90; 2 trials)  
  • Other outcomes “were consistently favourable, but less certain”
  • Subpopulation analysis suggests benefit was greatest for those with short cervix

Multifetal Pregnancies

  • Generally, no additional risk factors
  • Preterm birth <34 was was not reduced in women receiving progestogen
    • Vaginal progesterone (twins): RR 1.10 (95% CI, 0.84 to 1.20; 8 trials)
    • 17-OHPC (twins or triplets): RR 1.04 (95% CI, 0.92 to 1.18; 8 trials)
  • PPROM <34 weeks was higher with 17-OHPC
    • RR 1.59 (95% CI, 1.15 to 2.22
  • Evidence for other outcomes (risks or benefits) was not seen for vaginal progesterone or 17-OHPC


  • Preterm birth <34 weeks was reduced with vaginal progesterone and 17-OHPC in high risk pregnancies
  • Absolute risk reduction is greater for women with a short cervix
  • Evidence in this study did not support use of oral progesterone or treatment for unselected multifetal pregnancy
  • An editorial suggests
    • This current meta-analysis supports “the use of either 17-OHPC or vaginal progesterone to prolonged pregnancy, even with the inclusion of the negative findings from PROLONG”
    • There are other trials currently underway and therefore this study should be considered a ‘living’ meta-analysis
  • The EPPPIC authors conclude

Evidence of benefit in reducing preterm birth before 34 weeks was more certain for vaginal progesterone, but there was no clear evidence that either vaginal progesterone or 17-OHPC was superior

A consistent direction of benefit was noted for other birth and neonatal outcomes, including preterm birth before 28 weeks, preterm birth before 37 weeks, perinatal mortality, and composite serious neonatal complications 

Response from FDA:

  • The FDA has responded to EPPPIC and has not altered the recommendation to withdraw approval from Makena
  • The FDA states

The EPPPIC meta-analysis grouped together HPC trials of patients with differences in their risk profiles, including combining women with a prior PTB and those without a prior PTB, and women with and without a short cervix

Because of this grouping, the meta-analysis does not provide relevant information regarding Makena’s effectiveness for its approved use. CDER continues to conclude the available data have not shown Makena is effective for reducing morbidity or mortality in newborns or for the prevention of recurrent PTB in women with a prior spontaneous PTB 

Learn More – Primary Sources:

Evaluating Progestogens for Preventing Preterm birth International Collaborative (EPPPIC): meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised controlled trials

Lancet Editorial: Role of progestogens in women at risk for spontaneous preterm birth: the final word?

FDA: CDER perspective on recently published results of EPPPIC meta-analysis

Does Use of Progestogen Prolong Labor in PPROM Pregnancies?


  • Progestogen use appears to prolong pregnancy in women with previous spontaneous preterm birth and short cervical length 
  • Quist-Nelson et al. (AJOG, 2018) sought to determine whether progestogen use in singleton pregnancies prolongs pregnancy after preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM)


  • Systematic review and meta-analysis  
    • Database search of RCTs 
    • Singleton gestations deliveries following PPROM  
  • PPROM: Defined <37 weeks 
  • Patients had received  
    • Progestogens (17 alpha-hydoxyprogesterone caproate or natural progesterone) 
    • Matched placebo or no treatment 
  • Primary outcome:  Time from randomization until delivery (latency) 
  • Secondary outcomes 
    • Preterm birth at <37, <34, <32, and <28 weeks | Mean gestational age at delivery | Mode of delivery | Endometritis, chorioamnionitis | Neonatal outcomes, such as birthweight, RDS, IVH etc.  
    • Outcomes stratified by progestogen and route of administration


  • Six RCTs were included | Totaling 545 participants 
  • Mean gestational age at time randomization 
    • 17-α hydroxyprogesterone caproate group: 26.9 weeks  
    • Control group: 27.3 weeks  
  • 17-α Hydroxyprogesterone caproate administration was not found to prolong the latency period between randomization and delivery  
    • Mean difference, 0.11 days (95% CI, –3.30 to 3.53) 
  • There were no differences in  
    • Mean gestational age at delivery 
    • Mode of delivery 
    • Maternal or neonatal outcomes 
  • No difference in latency for those women who received rectal progesterone 
    • Mean difference, 4.00 days (95% CI, –0.72 to 8.72) 


  • Progestogen administration was not found to prolong time to labor in pregnancies with PPROM

Learn More – Primary Sources: 

Progestogens in singleton gestations with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes: a systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials

Cervical Cerclage – Professional Recommendations


ACOG defines cervical insufficiency as “the inability of the uterine cervix to retain a pregnancy in the absence of the signs and symptoms of clinical contractions, or labor, or both in the second trimester.” In addition, ACOG separates out indication for cerclage in to 3 categories

  • History: ≥1 of the following
    • Second trimester pregnancy losses related to painless cervical dilation and no history of labor or abruption
    • Previous second trimester cerclage for painless cervical dilation
  • Physical Examination: Also known as ‘physical examination–indicated cerclage’, ‘rescue cerclage’ and ’emergency cerclage’
    • Patient presents with painless second trimester cervical dilation
  • Ultrasound: Cervical length shortening and history of preterm birth
    • Singleton pregnancy
    • Prior spontaneous preterm birth (<34 weeks)
    • Cervical length:  <25 mm (at <24 weeks)

SMFM states that cerclages are effective in woman based on the following indications:

  • History indicated: 3 or more PTBs or second-trimester losses.
  • Ultrasound indicated: ≥1 early PTB (defined as delivery between 17w to 33w6d), and cervical length (CL) <25 mm on transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) before 24 weeks

Timing of Cerclage Placement

  • History-indicated cerclage
    • Place between 12 and 14 weeks after confirmation of pregnancy viability
  • Ultrasound or exam-indicated cerclage
    • May be placed prior to 23 weeks

Risk Factors

  • Prior PTB
  • Repeated cervical dilation
  • Cervical procedures (including cone and LEEP)
  • Cervical laceration
  • Urogenital abnormalities


Clinically, cervical insufficiency is painless dilation and recurrent mid-trimester losses without signs of preterm labor (PTL), PPROM, or infection. Patient history may include superimposed symptoms (i.e. bleeding, pressure), therefore a judicious review of records is advised.  Those with a history of prior preterm birth can benefit from cervical length screening to appropriate guide selected patients for cerclage.


Ultrasound Indicated Cerclage with Prior History of Preterm Birth or Second Trimester Losses (SMFM)

  • CL surveillance
    • Begin at 16 weeks and end at 24 weeks
    • Perform every 1 to 2 weeks
  • Offer cerclage when
    • CL <25 mm prior to 23w0d weeks and
    • History of spontaneous PTB at 17w0d to 33w6d
  • Evidence from research studies
    • There is no difference in efficacy of McDonald versus Shirodkar techniques

‘Emergency’ Cerclage (Exam indicated)

  • There is literature, including a meta-analysis (Obstet Gynecol, 2015), to support ’emergency’ or ‘rescue’ cerclage
    • Neonatal survival
      • Cerclage: 71% survival
      • No cerclage: 43% survival
      • Relative risk 1.65 (95% CI 1.19 to 2.28)
    • Prolongation of pregnancy
      • Mean difference: 33.98 days (95% CI, 17.88 to 50.08)
    • Authors note significant limitations including quality of data and only 1 RCT included

After clinical examination to rule out uterine activity, or intraamniotic infection, or both, physical examination-indicated cerclage placement (if technically feasible) in patients with singleton gestations who have cervical change of the internal os may be beneficial

Additional Interventions

  • Evidence does not support use of the following after cerclage placement
    • Serial cervical length measurements
    • Antibiotics
    • Prophylactic tocolysis

Cerclage Removal

  • Remove transvaginal McDonald cerclage at 36 to 37 weeks
  • Cesarean delivery planned for ≥39 weeks
    • May be removed at time of delivery
    • Consider possibility of spontaneous labor between 37 and 39 weeks
  • McDonald cerclage may be removed in the office
    • Removal or retention “is reasonable”
    • Prolonged antibiotic prophylaxis >7 days not recommended if suture is retained
  • Preterm labor
    • Diagnosis may be more difficult with cerclage in place

Routine management of preterm labor should be followed for patients with symptomatic preterm labor

If cervical change, painful contractions, or vaginal bleeding progress, cerclage removal is recommended

Learn More – Primary Sources:

ACOG Practice Bulletin 142: Cerclage for the Management of Cervical Insufficiency

Physical Examination–Indicated Cerclage: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

MFM: The role of routine cervical length screening in selected high- and low-risk women for preterm birth prevention