TUESDAY, November 8, 2023 (Nightly News) — Physicians are concerned that certain patients may not be able to pay the costly 14-day course of therapy for a new pharmaceutical designed to treat postpartum depression, which is estimated to cost close to $16,000.
In August of last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised Zurzuvae (zuranolone), making it the first pill-based medication for postpartum depression (PPD).
Despite the high price of Zurzuvae, its manufacturer, Sage Therapeutics, stated on Tuesday that the treatment should be available by December and that it and its partner, Biogen, are already in discussions with insurance companies over the medication’s coverage.
According to Sage Chief Executive Officer Barry Greene, the business wants “to enable broad and equitable access for women with PPD who are prescribed this drug.” Patients should be able to obtain the medication “where possible, with little to no co-pay regardless of financial means,” according to the goal. He said that the two businesses will also assist with cost-sharing or supply some patients medication without a prescription.
The drug’s approval has been well received by mental health professionals because it offers a novel approach to treating postpartum depression. Additionally, Dr. Catherine Monk, chief of the Division of Women’s Mental Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, told CNN that the medication “appears to be fast-acting.”
Zurzuvae reduced depression symptoms in as little as three days in one corporate study.
Before Zurzuvae was approved, the only oral treatment for postpartum depression was selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, Dr. Katrina Furey, a clinical instructor at Yale University and psychiatrist who specialises in women’s mental health and reproductive psychiatry, told CNN that SSRIs “take weeks to kick in and must continue being taken on a daily basis for at least six to 12 months.”
However, SSRIs are usually far less expensive: according to Drugs.com, generic versions of Prozac, Zoloft, and its equivalents can cost less than $20 per month.
Furey stated, “It’s unclear how much insurance companies will pay for it or if they would have women “fail” therapy with less costly SSRIs before they will pay for this new drug. “I hope that’s not the case and that the cost won’t prevent people from using this treatment.”
At the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Dr. Lindsay Allen, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, health economist, and health services researcher, told CNN that the $15,900 cost “raises substantial accessibility concerns, especially when we still don’t know how it’ll be covered by insurance.”
According to Allen, “it is critical to ensure access to these treatments because they may save the lives of new mothers at a critical juncture.” “One of the main causes of death in the first year after giving birth is suicide.”
Disclaimer: Note that the statistical information in medical articles only shows broad trends and does not apply to specific people. Different things can make a big difference. When making decisions about your own health care, you should always get personalised medical advice.