UPMC Now Offers Novel Drug for Postpartum Depression

October 19, 2020

In collaboration with UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is the only hospital in the Pittsburgh region to offer Brexanolone, the first-ever U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug designed specifically for the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD).

Depression after having a baby can be common and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about one in seven women experience symptoms of PPD. While psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both, have been proven to be helpful in treating PPD for many women, the approved FDA medication is designed to help women who struggle to get their PPD symptoms to subside, despite trying a variety of therapies. The fast-acting drug is administered via IV over a 60-hour period, requiring patients to stay at the hospital for the duration.

Priya Gopalan releaseThis is an exciting treatment option for women who struggle with postpartum depression. For women who have acute symptoms, it’s crucial to intervene quickly, and this medication has a rapid onset with most patients reporting effects within 24 hours after completing  the infusion,“ said Priya Gopalan, MD, medical director of psychiatry services for UPMC Western Psychiatric and UPMC Magee. “This will not be the first line of treatment for moms with mild to moderate postpartum depression because options like psychotherapy and antidepressants have proven to be effective in those cases, but this medication provides another option for mothers and is another tool in our toolbox.”

Experts at UPMC Western Psychiatrics’ outpatient perinatal psychiatry program determine if a woman is a prime candidate for this therapy based on the severity of her PPD and what the response has been to other treatment options. If a woman qualifies, she will receive her treatment at UPMC Magee, under the supervision of a psychiatrist and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. 

For follow-up care after the treatment, mothers will work with their established mental health team or will be connected with UPMC Western Behavioral Health postpartum mental health programs. 

“Postpartum depression is a serious and sometimes difficult-to-treat disorder,” said James Schuster, MD, MBA, associate chief medical officer and senior vice president of Medical and Behavioral Services at UPMC Health Plan, and chief medical officer of Community Care Behavioral Health. “UPMC Health Plan recognizes that this medication is an important new treatment option for our members and covers this treatment whenever indicated by our clinical guidelines and requested by their physician.”

“Very few drugs are designed specifically for pregnant and postpartum women. This patient population often is excluded from clinical trials and research because of the possible risks for the developing fetus. However, it’s important to include moms in research so that their needs—along with the needs of their baby—are appropriately addressed” explains Hyagriv Simhan, MD, executive vice chair of obstetrical services at UPMC Magee. “Moms deserve more and offering this unique drug designed specifically for postpartum women is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Additionally, UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg is the only provider in central Pennsylvania to offer this treatment.