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UIHC doctor involved in first ever FDA approved postpartum depression medication

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — News of a new drug to treat postpartum depression has been sweeping through the medical community, after the FDA approval was announced last week.

An Associate Professor in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz was on the advisory board that helped approve the drug.

Brexanolone, a new drug hitting the market for moms with more than just the baby blues. The drug is administered through an I.V. and takes 60 hours to complete.

Dr. Fiedorowicz, who’s also head of the Mood Disorder Center at the U.I.H.C., was part of the team that evaluated the drug. “We make a decision essentially, do the benefits of this med outweigh the risks and what can we do the manage the risk of that medication,” said Fiedorowicz.

The most notable risk, four to five percent of patients lost consciousness, so it does require medical supervision. However, for new moms in the trial, the drug had positive results. The best of them, that women felt relief from their depression within hours, lasting even a month after the I.V.’s stopped.

“What’s also unique is the size of the effect. Most of our anti-depression have small to moderate effects and, in these trials, particularly for the women with severe postpartum depression, we saw moderate to large effects. So this medicine is very effective,” said Fiedorowicz.

Postpatum depression is common among new moms, affecting about one in nine. A clinical faculty member in the U.I.H.C.’s Women’s Wellness Center, Joy Moel works closely with those affected.

“A lot of anxiety and depression. Depression right now is actually the number one complication of pregnancy and postpartum,” said Moel.

The promise of the drug lies in its quick results that are much faster than antidepressants that take weeks to produce results. Moel said that’s critical time, “This is such an important time period where so many things are happening to women after they give birth. Attachment issues are so important and to get back to feeling good and engaged.”

It’s a ray of light for moms who feel left in the dark, while trying to care for their children.

“It’s a groundbreaking therapy. It’s an exciting new treatment. Also because it’s a new mechanism and it opens up whole new lines of research, to better understand postpartum depression, to development new treatments to postpartum and even extend these treatments to other areas of medicine,” said Fiedorowicz.

Fiedorowicz said they hope to have this drug available for patients at I.U.H.C. soon.

This drug will be pricey, though. Estimated costs are anywhere from $35,000 to make, not including hospital fees. Both Fiedorowicz and Moel said that means there are questions about its accessibility and affordability.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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