Updated Aug 4, 2023 - Health

What to know about the first postpartum depression pill

Illustration of a magnifying glass inspecting a pill

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The first pill for postpartum depression was approved by the FDA on Friday.

Why it matters: Depression is one of the most common medical complications during and after pregnancy.

How it works: The drug, zuranolone, is taken daily for two weeks.

  • In a trial, treatment "led to rapid and nominally significant improvements in depressive symptoms versus placebo."
  • Anxiety and global functioning symptoms also improved.
  • The drug can also be used to treat major depression order, Biogen said.

Between the lines: The study period lasted 45 days, but researchers are not aware of how long the treatment is sustainable beyond this point.

  • Patients were not permitted to breastfeed during the treatment period and for one week after it ended, safety of breastfeeding on the medication is also unknown, researchers said.

Details: Biogen, a biotechnology company, and Sage Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, collaborated to develop and commercialize zuranolone.

  • The companies said the FDA granted priority review to their application with an action date of Aug. 5.
  • In 2019, Sage Therapeutics failed a late-stage study on an experimental drug intended to treat severe depression.

What they're saying: "Having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings," Tiffany Farchione, director of the psychiatry division in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

Flashback: The FDA approved the first drug, also developed by Sage, for postpartum depression in 2019, administered as a continuous IV infusion.

  • This treatment takes more than 60 hours.

Of note: According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Overwhelming tiredness or loss of energy
  • Less interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

Go deeper: 12,000 people used a national maternal mental health hotline in its first year

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the FDA's approval.

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