Article by Jackie Vicksman
On March 19, 2019, the FDA approved a new drug called Zulresso (brexanolone), manufactured by a company called Sage Therapeutics. The drug is meant to treat moderate to severe postpartum depression (PPD) and claims to begin alleviating symptoms in 2.5 days. It is also the first FDA-approved drug for PPD. At this point, the FDA has only approved the drug for distribution in a closely-monitored program known as Zulresso Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) at an enrolled health-care facility. This is due to the fact that Zulresso’s side effects include “excess sleepiness” and “sudden loss of consciousness” which can prove dangerous and/or fatal while patients drive or operate heavy machinery. While the drug has proved successful in treating PPD, it is difficult to obtain for lower income populations. The drug is not covered by Medicare, and costs $34,000 for one round of treatment. Medicare covers up to 50 percent of births in America and therefore, while this drug may have revolutionary benefits, affordability will prove a barrier to treatment for a significant number of women in need.