Postpartum depression pill Zurzuvae hits the market, but its biggest hurdle is cost

Postpartum depression can develop in about one in seven new mothers after childbirth.

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Friday, January 5, 2024
Postpartum depression pill Zurzuevae hits the market, but its biggest hurdle is cost
The oral postpartum depression pill Zurzuvae became available in mid-December, but right now it costs more than $15,000 before insurance.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Last month, Zurzuvae, the first oral pill approved in the United States to treat postpartum depression, became available.

Local mental health care providers say this novelty drug is meant to help those struggling to bond with their baby or acclimate to being a new parent.

"This is really exciting because they work different than the standard antidepressants, and it targets this specific population in postpartum," said Dr. Rachel Shmuts, D.O.

RELATED: First postpartum depression pill now available in the US, drugmakers say

Shmuts is the Vice Chair of Education of the Department of Psychiatry at Rowan Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine and is a licensed psychiatrist.

She says that until now, those suffering from postpartum depression were prescribed general use antidepressants.

But the FDA has now approved Zurzuvae, making it available with a prescription starting in mid-December.

It's given twice a day for 14 days and can improve symptoms in as early as three days.

"It's like an antibiotic. You take it and you're done, and there' s a sustained benefit," said Dr. Shmuts.

Postpartum depression can develop in about one in seven new mothers after childbirth. Symptoms can include debilitating crying spells and inability to sleep to thoughts of suicide or harming the baby.

Dr. Shmuts says that while the drug has become available via prescription, the cost is the biggest hurdle. Right now, Zurzuvae costs more than $15,000 before insurance.

"I haven't prescribed it all because its very expensive," she said. "I would like to be able to prescribe this yesterday. I'm usually skeptical about new meds to market. I like to see how they do in the post market analysis, but this is a medicine given the field that I work in and the patient population that I work with, that I'm very eager to try."

It's not clear if insurances will tier it, force patients to try other meds first before making this an option that will be covered, or if they reserve it for severe cases only.

Experts say the price tag is about half the cost of an earlier postpartum drug that's given through an IV.