Sage Therapeutics works on rapid treatment for postpartum depression


Zuranolone lowered the symptoms of postpartum depression in just three days from the start of the study.

Researchers from Sage Therapeutics conducted a third-phase clinical trial on zuranolone treatment for postpartum depression. The results suggested that zuranolone helped lower depression symptoms quickly after three days of the first dose. Additionally, the medicine sustainably relieved anxiety symptoms during two weeks of the trial.

’The need for rapid and effective resolution of postpartum depression symptoms cannot be overstated, given the prevalence of postpartum depression and the negative effect untreated postpartum depression can have on mothers, children, and partners,’ wrote the authors of the paper published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study was conducted on 150 women aged 18-46 with postpartum depression. Scientists measured their condition with Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. A questionnaire measured symptoms like mood changes, insomnia, suicidal ideation, or anxiety. Participants with a result higher than 23 points were classified as severely affected, and those with scores higher than 26 were enrolled in the trial.

Participants lived in 27 states in the US. Half of them took 30 mg of zuranolone every evening for 14 days. The other half were administered a placebo. After two weeks, researchers checked the changes from baseline in depressive symptoms. The researchers found that mothers who took the medication displayed 4-point lower depression symptoms than the placebo group.

Postpartum depression exhausts new moms and deprives them of joy. Rarely, in severe cases, untreated postpartum depression becomes a life-threatening condition for a mother and her newborn. Current treatment with serotonin uptake inhibitors seems to be as effective as a psychosociological intervention. However, they act slowly, and individuals treated with them show higher remission rates.

In contrast, the force of zuranolone is its rapid action. Positive effects occurred just three days after the first dose. Because women need quick treatment, this intervention may be promising. Furthermore, during the 45-study period, many women stayed in a remission state. Researchers claim that medicine can potentially provide short-term outpatient utility in postpartum depression.

Yet, this research has limitations. Women during the study and a week after it ended (21 days) could not breastfeed. The safety of lactation and baby was not checked and is still unknown.

’Although postpartum depression diagnosis requires that symptoms cause impaired functioning, standard clinician-rated trial instruments may only measure reductions in depressive symptoms, not functioning. Zuranolone was associated with clinically meaningful improvements in postpartum maternal functioning at day 45 (…), suggesting an overall treatment effect,’ the researchers concluded.

Martyna Piotrowska

The story is based on the study published in JAMA Psychiatry June 30 2021

Effect of Zuranolone vs Placebo in Postpartum Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial | Depressive Disorders | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network


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