A first-of-its-kind pill designed to help treat postpartum depression is one step closer to being available to new mothers.
Postpartum depression affects one in eight US women, and a fast-acting medication called zuranolone may soon be approved by the FDA. The pill, taken over 14 days, relieves depressive symptoms in as little as three days. The FDA is expected to approve the drug by August 5, making it the first specifically designed pill for postpartum depression.
The director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Jennifer Payne, who treats patients with postpartum depression and researches the biological mechanisms behind it says the pill “will be a game changer.”
While many women suffer short-term mood changes after childbirth, which are commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” postpartum depression lasts longer and is more severe, impairing a person’s ability to function normally. Extreme sadness, worry, fear, and exhaustion are among the symptoms. Those suffering from postpartum depression may also feel alienated from their newborns and struggle to bond with them.
During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone hormones increase by 10 times, leading to a 10-fold drop in postpartum depression. Zuranolone, a synthetic neurosteroid, acts on GABA receptors in the brain, a signaling pathway that regulates stress and mood. GABA calms the nervous system, and individuals with depression and chronic stress have lower levels of this chemical.
Zuranolone works essentially by “resetting the neural circuits back to normal functioning so that the brain can handle stress as it should,” according to Kristina Deligiannidis, a psychiatrist at New York’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research who supervised a clinical trial of the prescription.
Meanwhile, Dr. Laura Gault, chief medical officer at Sage Therapeutics Inc., said in a statement, “We feel a tremendous responsibility to patients with MDD and PPD to deliver a potential new treatment option, which is so desperately needed. Most current approved therapies may take weeks or months to work. We are committed to advancing treatments that could help physicians and patients by addressing depression symptoms quickly.”
“We believe Zuranolone, if approved, could offer a new way for physicians to support patients,” Gault added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if approved, Zuranolone, manufactured by Sage Therapeutics, Inc. and Biogen Inc., would be the first medication to treat postpartum depression, a kind of depression that arises after delivering a baby.
Zuranolone, the fast-acting antidepressant would be taken once a day for two weeks.