The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug specifically created for treating postpartum depression, providing hope for women suffering from the condition — as long as they can afford the treatment at upward of $34,000 a pop.
What are the details?
On Tuesday, the FDA announced it had signed off on allowing the drug called brexanolone (marketed as Zulresso) to be administered intravenously to patients over a period of 60 hours. In addition to the price tag of $20,000 to $34,000 per dose, women given the drug must be monitored in a certified medical center for observation due to fainting risks.
According to CNN, the time required for taking the medicine means "some women may face barriers accessing this type of treatment."
Yet the expense could be an even greater hindrance, given the cost of the clinical stay on top of the price of the vials. Insurance companies are reportedly "evaluating" whether to cover the treatment, The New York Times reported.
Manufacturer Sage Therapeutics told the Times it does expect insurance companies to cover the drug.
A pill form of the drug is currently going through clinical trials, which would make Zulresso more widely available to patients unable to be admitted for an extended inpatient treatment as required when taken in the IV form.
Postpartum depression is the most common complication of pregnancy, according to the Times, and can be debilitating. The American Psychology Association estimates up to 1 in 7 women experience it following childbirth.
Dr. Tiffany Farchione, director of the FDA's Division of Psychiatry Products, said in a statement, "Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening. Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child."
While the cost of Zulresso may be out of reach for many patients, it goes into effect in hours as opposed to current antidepressants used to treat PPD — which can take weeks to kick in, if at all.
Researcher Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody told CNN of new drug, "My greatest hope is that this increases awareness. What's heartbreaking is the number of women who suffer in silence and do not get the treatment that they need."
"People need to reach out and get screened and get treatment," she added, "regardless of if treatment is with brexanolone or not."