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Postpartum depression affects as many as 400,000 women in the United States every year, and on Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug specifically created to treat the disorder.
Brexanolone, also known as Zulresso, is delivered intravenously. The infusion takes 60 hours, and during a clinical trial, most participants showed improvement within 24 hours of receiving the drug, and reported they still felt the effects 30 days later. Brexanolone contains a synthetic form of allopregnanolone, a derivative of progesterone, which increases during pregnancy and drops dramatically after giving birth. It is thought allopregnanolone could contribute to postpartum depression.
Women with postpartum depression often feel profound sadness, anxiety, or despair. Many are treated with antidepressants that take weeks to kick in, and sometimes don't work at all, as they do not address the hormonal changes that happen during and after pregnancy. Each infusion is expected to cost $20,000 to $35,000, NBC News reports, and it's unknown how much insurance will cover. Researchers said each patient will likely only need one infusion. It is expected the FDA will soon decide if the drug is safe for women while breastfeeding.