Vall d'Hebron has participated in one of the clinical trials that have enabled the approval of the first specific pill for postpartum depression in the United States

The new drug improves core symptoms of depression in just three days


The United States has approved Zurzuvae, the first specific oral treatment for postpartum depression. Vall d'Hebron University Hospital participated in one of the two clinical trials that led to this milestone. The treatment consists of a daily pill for fourteen days. At the end of the period, patients experienced a significant improvement in symptoms, with visible results on the third day, which were sustained until at least one month after the end of treatment. In total, more than 300 participants were recruited in Spain, the US and the UK, half of whom received placebo and half the drug. The results showed a significant improvement in the treated group versus the control group and were similar in the two studies.  The patient profile was an adult woman with severe postpartum depression strongly driven by hormonal factors.

Zurzuvae is based on allopregnanolone, a neurosteroid created by the female sex hormone progesterone. Until now, there was only one drug derived from this steroid to treat postpartum depression, but it has to be administered intravenously in a 60-hour procedure. The new drug is much easier to use, improving the availability, convenience, and cost of treatment. Still, its use is limited to severe cases, as it forces the abandonment of maternal breastfeeding and prevents driving and other activities that require constant attention for 12 hours after administration.

Towards a more personalised treatment for depression

Dr. Gemma Parramon Puig, psychiatrist and researcher in the Psychiatry, mental health and addictions group at Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), one of the clinical trial leaders, emphasizes that the new drug is designed for a specific group of women with postpartum depression: "These are patients whose pathology has a strong hormonal component, which opens the door to it also being effective with other patients with depressive disorders not linked to childbirth, but also caused or aggravated by hormonal imbalance". The ultimate goal of the research team is to move towards a more personalised treatment for depression, "they are diverse pathologies with heterogeneous causes and to achieve an effective response we need specific treatments for each case".

The data prove the seriousness and extent of these depressive pathologies. Statistics show that even before the pandemic, 7% of adults in Spain suffered from depression, and the next survey is expected to show a significant increase in the number of people affected. In the case of pregnant women, several studies suggest that one in ten mothers will suffer from postpartum depression.

The patient profile is an adult woman with severe postpartum depression strongly driven by hormonal factors.

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