As the United States contends with an escalating maternal healthcare crisis, a potential remedy to ease the symptoms of postpartum depression is garnering attention and anticipation. A ground-breaking neuroactive steroid pill named Zuranolone touted as a possible game-changer for mental health struggles faced by new parents, is under a priority review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Zuranolone: A Potential Panacea for Postpartum Depression
According to a release from The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Zuranolone has shown “rapid, clinically meaningful improvements in depressive symptoms at measured time points” during the most recent phase of the study. These findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Wednesday. For a 14-day treatment course, this pill offers swift antidepressant effects, generally well-tolerated side effects, and the added advantage of at-home administration. The effectiveness of Zuranolone is measured through significant improvement in depressive symptoms by day 15, with the most commonly reported side effects being drowsiness, dizziness, and sedation.
How Zuranolone Works
Zuranolone operates by providing the brain with a neuroactive steroid that stimulates the GABA receptors, key players in our response to stress and anxiety. This steroid, which naturally ascends during pregnancy and descends post-childbirth, is derived from the hormone progesterone. It’s worth noting that hormonal changes are considered one of the possible factors contributing to postpartum depression (PPD), thus Zuranolone could potentially help regulate these fluctuations.
Impacting the Rising Rates of Postpartum Depression
In the US, about 1 woman out of 8 deals with post-baby depression, says the CDC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also note that the number of women diagnosed with depression is rising. This condition often gets overlooked. Because more people with previous mental and physical health problems are having babies, more post-pregnancy depression cases are cropping up. This issue has made everyone pay more attention to new moms’ mental health, as shown by the “Momnibus Bill” now being discussed in Congress. Post-baby depression symptoms are diverse. They can include big changes in mood, crying a lot, not wanting to be around family and friends, or thoughts of hurting oneself. Some of these signs can look like the typical moodiness after giving birth or struggles that come with becoming a new mom, like extreme tiredness, not wanting to eat, trouble bonding with the baby, or not being able to sleep.
Sahar McMahon, a 39-year-old mom from Queens, New York, who participated in the study, received Zuranolone, not the placebo. She shared that after the birth of her second daughter, her existence was marred by a deep sense of pessimism. However, upon starting her treatment with Zuranolone, she immediately began feeling more like herself.
FDA’s Upcoming Decision
The FDA’s recognition of the pressing need for the drug is reflected in the agency granting Zuranolone “priority review” status. This implies an intent to review the drug within six months. The FDA is expected to deliver its decision on the drug’s approval on August 5. Meanwhile, additional research is underway that will also inform the FDA’s final verdict. If approved, Zuranolone could potentially offer a significant stride in the direction of effective, swift, and convenient treatment for postpartum depression, providing new hope to many grappling with the condition.