Game Changer: New Postpartum Drug Approved by FDA

Mental health conditions, including deaths by suicide, are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death in the United States, according to the CDC. Now, a “game-changing” new drug has been approved by the FDA that could provide significant relief to women suffering from postpartum depression.

New Hope for Women

According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration granted approval of the drug, Zurzuvae, for adults experiencing severe depression related to childbirth or pregnancy. The pill is taken once a day for 14 days.  It has been shown to give significant symptom relief after only three days, with benefits lasting over 45 days. 

“Having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings,” said Dr. Tiffany Farchione, FDA’s director of psychiatric drugs, in a statement.

Forbes reports that previously, the only approved medication specifically for postpartum depression was an IV that requires a hospital stay and costs $34,000. Other standard treatment includes counseling or antidepressants, which can take weeks to work and don’t help everyone.

Possible Game Changer

According to NPR, the approval of this drug is being cautiously applauded by health care advocates.  The nonprofit Postpartum Support International called it

“welcome news for the estimated 500,000 women in the United States who report experiencing symptoms of this devastating and often misunderstood illness each year.”

The Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, a national think tank, lauded the drug as a

“new ray of hope for individuals experiencing postpartum depression and for prescribing providers.”

This is especially important, they note, because of the significant shortage of mental health care providers qualified to treat maternal mental health conditions.

Unanswered Questions

While health care providers are optimistic, they still have some unanswered questions about the drug. Dr. Kimberly Yonkers of Yale University said the FDA should have required Sage to submit more follow-up data on how women fared after additional months.

“The problem is we don’t know what happens after 45 days,” said Yonkers, a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum depression. “It could be that people are well or it could be that they relapse.”

There are also concerns about how much Zurzuvae will cost — so it’s not clear how much insurance might cover, or how accessible the drug will be to the people who need it most. While anyone can develop postpartum depression, those from lower socioeconomic groups face a heightened risk, according to NPR’s reporting. 


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