My Problem with the New Postpartum Depression Drug

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Postpartum depression is a rampant and largely overlooked mental health issue in the United States. It is not being a little sad or wondering what the heck to do with this little baby that is now your responsibility. It is a debilitating mental health illness that needs treatment. And the new postpartum drug that the FDA recently approved is not enough.

Postpartum depression-more common than you think.

According to the American Psychological Association, around 1 out of every 7 mothers experiences PPD. Prior episodes of depression are not necessarily an indicator of PPD. Around half of the women diagnosed with PPD describe it as their first experience with depression. For some women, PPD symptoms begin emerging during pregnancy. Others don’t develop PPD until months after their child is born.

New mothers are so often told to look after themselves, too. To reach out for help. To speak up about mental health issues as they arise. When a mother is suffering from PPD these options can feel impossible and out of reach. I know, because I’ve lived through it. I’ve lived through PPD and other forms of mental health issues that have made it difficult to maintain regular employment and to get an education and to be a halfway decent mom.

Is help coming?

When I first saw the headlines saying a drug had been developed specifically for PPD I was ecstatic. And then I read. And I read, and I read, and I read. Do you know what stuck out?

The FDA-approved drug Zulresso requires a 60-hour continuous IV infusion in a medical facility. Let’s take a moment to remember who is affected by PPD. Mothers with newborns or infants. Does she work? Is she breastfeeding? Does she have a partner or support system who can care for her child for nearly three freaking days?

Let’s look at the price now. The cost of a single dose will cost anywhere between $20,000 and $35,000, and that does not even include the cost of the medical facility where the drug is administered. Insurance might cover some of the costs, but there is no information about how much health insurance companies might be willing to shell out. However, I have to assume that there is another drug to treat the depression you get after receiving your first bill.

The upside of the drug? It apparently begins working quickly, improving the symptoms of PPD within 24 hours of treatment.

The downside? The time and cost involved with getting this treatment means that it is out of reach for many mothers.

I have a few hopes for this drug, though. I hope it removes some of the stigma from mental health illnesses, that it prompts other drug companies to develop better and cheaper medications, and that medical professionals begin taking women’s medical issues more seriously.

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