Trial of SAGE-217 in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder

N Engl J Med. 2019 Sep 5;381(10):903-911. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1815981.


Background: Altered neurotransmission of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression. Whether SAGE-217, an oral, positive allosteric modulator of GABA type A receptors, is effective and safe for the treatment of major depressive disorder is unknown.

Methods: In this double-blind, phase 2 trial, we enrolled patients with major depression and randomly assigned them in a 1:1 ratio to receive 30 mg of SAGE-217 or placebo once daily. The primary end point was the change from baseline to day 15 in the score on the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D; scores range from 0 to 52, with higher scores indicating more severe depression). Secondary efficacy end points, which were assessed on days 2 through 8 and on days 15, 21, 28, 35, and 42, included changes from baseline in scores on additional depression and anxiety scales, a reduction from baseline of more than 50% in the HAM-D score, a HAM-D score of 7 or lower, and a Clinical Global Impression of Improvement score of 1 (very much improved) or 2 (much improved) (on a scale of 1 to 7, with a score of 7 indicating that symptoms are very much worse).

Results: A total of 89 patients underwent randomization: 45 patients were assigned to the SAGE-217 group, and 44 to the placebo group. The mean baseline HAM-D score was 25.2 in the SAGE-217 group and 25.7 in the placebo group. The least-squares mean (±SE) change in the HAM-D score from baseline to day 15 was -17.4±1.3 points in the SAGE-217 group and -10.3±1.3 points in the placebo group (least-squares mean difference in change, -7.0 points; 95% confidence interval, -10.2 to -3.9; P<0.001). The differences in secondary end points were generally in the same direction as those of the primary end point. There were no serious adverse events. The most common adverse events in the SAGE-217 group were headache, dizziness, nausea, and somnolence.

Conclusions: Administration of SAGE-217 daily for 14 days resulted in a reduction in depressive symptoms at day 15. Adverse events were more common in the SAGE-217 group than in the placebo group. Further trials are needed to determine the durability and safety of SAGE-217 in major depressive disorder and to compare SAGE-217 with available treatments. (Funded by Sage Therapeutics; number, NCT03000530.).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / classification
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Dizziness / chemically induced
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • GABA Modulators / adverse effects
  • GABA Modulators / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Pregnanes / adverse effects
  • Pregnanes / therapeutic use*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Pyrazoles / adverse effects
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • GABA Modulators
  • Pregnanes
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • zuranolone

Associated data