For the 400,000 women who suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) each year, treatment has been limited to psychotherapy and antidepressants that can take weeks to begin working. In March, Sage Therapeutics received FDA approval for Zulresso, the first specific treatment for PPD. Administered via an IV over 60 hours, Zulresso takes effect almost immediately. (The FDA doesn’t list any risks for infants, but Sage recommends patients consult a doctor before breastfeeding.)
While traditional antidepressants are based on the idea that the underlying problem is depleted levels of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine), Zulresso—Sage’s first approved therapy—targets the brain’s neuroreceptors. “It’s almost like resetting the nervous system,” says CEO Jeff Jonas. The company is applying the same approach to other conditions; Sage-217, an oral drug for major depressive disorder, won breakthrough designation from the FDA in 2018, and in clinical trials improved symptoms for most patients in a matter of days.
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A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.