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Treatment for severe postpartum depression may be near

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 6/14/2017 ARIEL SCOTTI

Good news for new moms.

A postpartum depression drug shown to drastically reduce debilitating symptoms is one step closer to being made available to sufferers.

Phase two of clinical trials for Brexanolone, an intravenous drug, were a success, so the drug’s now being evaluated for phase three testing at the University of North Carolina. If research from the trials shows the treatment works well, doctors can ultimately apply for FDA approval.

The drug was designed to treat certain receptors in the central nervous system that have been identified in altering hormone levels that scientists believe to “play a critical role in triggering postpartum depression.”

“The results of this trial are like nothing I’ve seen before in the treatment of postpartum depression,” Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the study’s principal investigator, told Science Daily.

Women who took part in the UNC study were all classified as “very severely depressed” using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. According to the scale: those who score in the 0-7 range are normal; 8-13 suffer from mild depression; 14-18, moderate depression; 19-22, severe depression; and 23 or high, very severe depression. Those studied in this trial scored at least a 26.

For over 60 hours, half of the clinical trial patients received a continuous flow of the drug, while half were administered a placebo. When the women who took the drug were given the HAM-D test again, on average, they scored 21 points lower than they did before taking brexanolone.

“In women with severe postpartum depression in the trial, infusion of brexanolone resulted in a rapid, sustained, statistically significant and clinically meaningful mean reduction in the HAM-D total score,” Meltzer-Brody said. “A 21-point reduction is not only meaningful in a clinical setting; it’s very promising in terms of potential drug development.

“To have an approved drug to treat postpartum depression, which affects so many women, their babies and their entire families, would be groundbreaking for our field and absolutely life-changing for the women who are suffering,” Meltzer-Brody added.

Slideshow: 7 Postpartum Depression Myths That Can Be Dangerous to Believe (Provided by Reader's Digest)

Video: Treating postpartum blues (Provided by Health Day)

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