Worldwide Initiative for Rh Disease Eradication
As a result of the regulatory approval of Rh(D) immune globulin in 1968 for prophylaxis against Rh disease of the fetus and newborn, this disease has virtually disappeared from Western Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia. Nonetheless, even more than 50 years later, due to a lack of awareness and access to appropriate care, Rh disease remains prevalent in other parts of the world, leading to hundreds of thousands of families affected by repeated miscarriages, stillbirths, and neonates with hyperbilirubinemia-related adverse outcomes. Indeed, it is estimated that ~50% of the pregnant women around the world who need Rh(D) immune globulin do not receive it, amounting to ~2.5 million women each year.
To address the continuing challenges of Rh disease, a new, multidisciplinary organization was founded in 2019: the Worldwide Initiative for Rh Disease Eradication (WIRhE). Drs. Steven Spitalnik and Brie Stotler are the Executive Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of this new organization. WIRhE aims to eradicate Rh disease by “connecting the world to protect mothers and babies.” To this end, it intends to encourage, enable, and empower the efforts of diverse groups of individuals and organizations; to serve as a clearinghouse for cooperative and collaborative projects; to provide a centralized source of information about Rh disease for patients, physicians, and health-care organizations; and to advocate for affordable access to Rh(D) immune globulin. The kickoff meeting for WIRhE occurred on September 27-28, 2019 in Florence, Italy, with representation from 21 countries, 15 medical associations, and 8 non-governmental organizations. The international consortium was tasked with discussing the current state of, and future strategies for combatting, Rh disease in their communities.