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FDA approves first drug to help with postpartum depression

Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 20, 2019

CLEVELAND — For the first time in history, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for the treatment of postpartum depression, which experts said could be life changing for new mothers.

Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg, a behavioral medicine doctor at University Hospital, said she has at least a dozen patients per month with postpartum depression. She treats them with anti-depressants, because that's what is available.

“While they are still effective, and we will still probably use them, this particular medication is immediate," she said.

With an oral anti-depressant, she said patients may not see any changes at all. If they do, it could take up to a month to see results.

The FDA announced the approval of an intravenous infusion of the drug brexanolone on Tuesday, which will be sold as Zulresso. It has been shown in clinical trials to work within hours to treat the symptoms of postpartum depression, a serious mental illness that impacts one in nine new mothers after childbirth.

The treatment is administered as a single 60-hour IV drip and was found to have mild side effects, such as headache, dizziness or excessive sleepiness.

The drug will likely be priced around $20,000 to $35,000 per treatment, Sage Therapeutics, the company that developed the drug, confirmed.

Dr. Kingsberg does not know when it will be in Ohio, but she hopes by summer.

"Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening. Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child. Postpartum depression can also interfere with the maternal-infant bond. This approval marks the first time a drug has been specifically approved to treat postpartum depression, providing an important new treatment option," Dr. Tiffany Farchione, acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press announcement on Tuesday.