FDA Has Big News on Postpartum Depression Front

Sage Therapeutics introduces fast-acting Zurzuvae, the first pill for condition afflicting new moms
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
FDA Gives Thumbs-Up to First Postpartum Depression Pill
A pregnant woman is seen in Dallas on May 18.   (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Hundreds of thousands of women suffer from postpartum depression annually, and while the serious condition that emerges after childbirth often resolves within weeks, for other women, it can stretch for months, even years, and cause feelings that may even prove dangerous. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has announced a possible game-changer: a pill it has approved designed specifically for postpartum depression—a medication that until now could only be administered by IV. The zuranolone pill will be sold under the brand name Zurzuvae, manufactured by Sage Therapeutics, per an FDA release. "Having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings," says Tiffany Farchione, the FDA's director of psychiatric drugs.

The new pill stands out from other antidepressants in a couple of ways. First, in clinical trials it showed itself to be fast-acting, having an effect in some patients in just three days, instead of the typical two weeks or more that other antidepressants take. Second, it's only taken once a day for two weeks, not for months. Experts also hope that patients who may be reluctant to take antidepressants will still try this one, as it's specifically geared toward women with postpartum depression—meaning it "could help reduce the stigma of postpartum depression by underscoring that it has biological underpinnings and is not something women should blame themselves for," as the New York Times puts it.

In its studies on Zurzuvae, Sage Therapeutics found that women who took the pill reported fewer signs of depression over four to six weeks, compared with those who received a placebo, and that many of the subjects felt effects from the medication within three days of initially taking it. Sahar McMahon was one of the women who participated in the studies, and she attests to the drug's efficacy, per the AP. "I planned my pregnancies, I knew I wanted those kids, but I didn't want to interact with them," the 39-year-old describes how she felt following the birth of her second daughter in 2021. After taking Zurzuvae, however, "it was a quick transition for me just waking up and starting to feel like myself again." No price has been announced for the pill, which is expected to be made available after a mandatory 90-day review by the Drug Enforcement Administration. (Read more postpartum depression stories.)

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