Researchers and physicians fear that some patients may not be able to pay a recently approved treatment for postpartum depression when it launches later this year. The prescription will cost $15,900 per 14-day course, before insurance.
The US Food and Drug Administration authorized Zurzuvae in August, making it the first pill-based treatment licensed for postpartum depression. The medication’s anticipated release date is December, according to drugmaker Sage Therapeutics, which also reported on Tuesday that it and collaborator Biogen are in discussions with insurers over policy details.
“To enable broad and equitable access for women with PPD who are prescribed this drug,” stated Sage Chief Executive Officer Barry Greene in a press statement, is the firms’ mission. The goal is for patients to have access to the medication “where possible, with little to no co-pay regardless of financial means.” The pharmaceutical companies will either cover the cost of the medication for some patients or offer financial aid to help cover it altogether.
Research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that up to 1 in 8 new mothers experience postpartum depression.
It usually occurs after childbirth, although it can sometimes appear later in pregnancy. Suicidal thoughts and feelings of fatigue may result from it.
In addition to offering a novel approach to treating postpartum depression, mental health professionals applauded Zurzuvae’s approval this summer because, in the words of Dr. Catherine Monk, chief of the Division of Women’s Mental Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medication “appears to be fast-acting.”
According to Sage and Biogen, the medication was demonstrated to alleviate depressed symptoms in as short as three days in one clinical experiment. It was approved based on two trials that demonstrated significant improvements over placebo after two weeks on a 17-item depression measure.
Zurzuvae functions similarly to naturally occurring brain steroids by modulating the GABA signaling system and assisting in the regulation of brain activity. The medication label prominently states that patients should refrain from driving or engaging in any other “potentially hazardous activities” for at least 12 hours following their dose due to the medication’s propensity to have a depressive effect on the central nervous system.
“It goes without saying that accelerated recovery is a huge plus in helping people with PPD feel like themselves again,” Monk emailed.
According to her, bonding throughout a baby’s early years might be greatly aided by it.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are the current oral treatments for postpartum depression. According to Dr. Katrina Furey, a clinical instructor at Yale University and a private practice psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health and reproductive psychiatry, these antidepressants “take weeks to kick in and must continue being taken on a daily basis for at least six to 12 months.”
According to Furey, the cost of Zurzuvae is disproportionately high when compared to those medications. According to data from GoodRx, SSRIs, which include generic versions of medications like Prozac and Zoloft, usually cost less than $20 per month.
“How much insurance companies will pay for it is still to be determined, as is whether they will make women ‘fail’ treatment with less expensive SSRIs before funding this new treatment,” Furey stated. “I hope that’s not the case and that the cost won’t prevent people from using this treatment.”