New Type of Antidepressant Could Be Game Changer

By Kelly Burch 01/14/19

The new medication will reportedly deliver fast-acting relief for patients, who often need to wait four to six weeks to feel the effects of current anti-depressants. 

hand holding an antidepressant

A fast-acting and innovative depression medication that works differently from drugs currently on the market received a positive result in clinical trials this week, clearing the way for the drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as soon as March. 

Sage Therapeutics announced in a news release that its drug, SAGE-217, led to statistically-significant improvements for women with postpartum depression in just two weeks, while being well tolerated by the women overall. 

“These are strong and consistent data demonstrating a rapid, stable, and clinically meaningful improvement in PPD depressive symptoms in the SAGE-217 treatment group compared to placebo,” Dr. Jeff Jonas, M.D., CEO of Sage, said in the release.

Despite the fact that depression is one of the most common health conditions in the world, there are currently limited means for treating the condition. Current medications that act on the brain’s serotonin system don’t work for as many as a third of patients. SAGE-217 offers an entirely different model for treatment, acting on the brain’s GABA receptors in order to alleviate depression symptoms. 

Jonas said last year that the new approach will deliver fast-acting relief for patients, who often need to wait four to six weeks to feel the effects of current anti-depressants. 

“In this development program, we are exploring the potential for patients with [major depression] to feel well within days, with just a 2-week course of treatment – similar to how antibiotics are used today – instead of enduring long-term chronic treatment,” Jonas wrote in a news release. “We believe a medicine with rapid onset and robust response could be truly paradigm shifting. SAGE-217, if successfully developed and approved, may rewrite the textbook on how the tens of millions of people suffering from [major depression] are treated, ultimately turning depression into a disorder, not an identity.”

In June, the FDA announced that it would allow an accelerated approval plan for Sage, allowing the drug to come to market faster by using shorter clinical trials to prove its effectiveness.

In addition to providing fast-acting relief, Jonas has said that SAGE-217 could be taken intermittently so that patients don’t need to take a monthly pill. 

Despite the lofty promises, many medical professionals are cautiously optimistic about the new drug and how life-changing it may be for patients.

Psychiatrist Cristina Cusin, who specializes in depression at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University told Business Insider that the company’s predictions might be a little rosy, saying it seems "a little excessive to say a chronic disease would disappear after two weeks, that's something you can't say about diabetes or any other chronic disease."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.