Australian tech in postnatal depression pill breakthrough

Researchers at Monash University hope a technology they have invented will allow women who must undergo lengthy intravenous infusion treatments for postnatal depression to take a simple pill instead.

Monash has worked with Nasdaq-listed biotech PureTech Health to research whether its drug delivery platform, called Glyph, will mean that a drug registered in the United States to treat postnatal depression can be delivered as a oral capsule instead of an IV infusion.

The university’s drug delivery platform is being tested as a way to deliver postpartum depression medication via a pill instead of an IV. Credit:Shutterstock

The drug called allopregnanolone is licensed in the United States for postnatal depression, but can only be given by intravenous infusion over 60 hours. Like many other drugs, the product cannot be taken orally because the liver breaks it down to such an extent that it is not sufficiently absorbed by the body.

“The liver breaks it down and none of it makes it into the general circulation,” said Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences director Professor Chris Porter.

There are a number of other medications that also require IV injections. These treatments are time-consuming and require patients to spend hours in hospitals or day clinics, so researchers are looking for alternatives.

Porter and his team have been working for years on the Glyph System, which aims to solve this problem by coaxing drugs to absorb through the lymphatic system, the network of vessels and nodes that transport excess fluid into the body. When drugs travel through this route, they bypass the liver.

“If you can persuade drugs to use the lymphatic system, well that way [and] the plumbing bypasses the liver completely,” Porter said.

Early data from a Phase 1 study for the treatment of depression showed that patients who received a pill using Monash’s technology saw a significant increase in blood levels of the drug compared to previous attempts to give the drug by mouth rather than by injection.

This suggests that the drug could one day be taken in pill form, rather than long infusions, which is difficult for patients suffering from depressive episodes.

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