For the first time ever, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a postpartum depression drug, which experts say offers new hope to women and physicians — but the cost of it is a huge chunk of the salary of an average American.
The intravenous infusion of the drug, brexanolone, which will cost $34,000 per patient without insurance and will be sold as Zulresso, is said to work much faster in treating symptoms of postpartum depression with longer lasting results. ot only is the treatment a hefty price, it also requires time and effort; women who receive the treatment are required to receive an infusion drip for 60 hours under medical supervision. Possible side effects range from headaches and dizziness to excessive sleepiness and sudden loss of consciousness.
Still, many believe that the new drug will be a game changer for the 1 in 10 new mothers who experience postpartum depression after childbirth. Dr. Tiffany Farchione, the acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press announcement on Tuesday, “Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening. Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child.”
She continued,“Postpartum depression can also interfere with the maternal-infant bond. This approval marks the first time a drug has been specifically approved to treat postpartum depression, providing an important new treatment option.”
The medication is expected to be available in June through a restricted program called the Zulresso Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program that requires the drug to be administered by a health care provider in a certified health care facility. Many women are still balked by the price being that the childbirth process itself is already expensive on its own even without complications.Untreated,, postpartum depression can last for months and even years, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Luckily, insurance companies can help cover the burden of the treatment cost by determining whether it can be covered and/or what the out-of-pocket costs would be.
“It’s going to be very important for insurance to cover it in order for it be accessible,” Samantha Meltzer-Brody, a reproductive psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and the lead scientist of the drug’s clinical trials said. “I’m hoping that will be the case.”
But insurance coverage isn’t always a possibility, and not everyone can afford to pay $34,000 out-of-pocket for an optional treatment. So, although brexanolone may be right for some mothers who experience postpartum depression, it’s clear that it will only help a small percentage of those who suffer from this condition. So, yet again, medical advancements in maternal health have left out those who are most vulnerable — those who are of low income, of color and without insurance.