Postpartum depression affects hundreds of thousands of women worldwide, and as of Tuesday, the FDA has approved a drug specifically intended for its treatment.
The drug is called Zulresso.
It’s an intravenous infusion of Brexanolone, administered as a single 60-hour IV drip.
Deaconess joins Eyewitness News to talk about the new drug and what postpartum is and how it impacts women.
SHELLEY: “Now Briana Alvey is an advanced practice nurse with Women’s Healthcare in Evansville and she’s joining us now to talk a little bit more about this breakthrough drug. Briana thank you so much for joining us here. Tell me about postpartum depression first. I think a lot of people think it’s the blues, feeling a little more emotional maybe, but it can be very serious or maybe even life or death.”
BRIANA: “It’s actually one of the most common postpartum operations and it affects about one in nine women. The symptoms can range from feeling sad and anxious, overwhelmed, and it can be as serious as wanting to hurt yourself, wanting to hurt your baby.”
SHELLEY: “How has it been treated before this drug came along, how has it been treated?”
BRIANA: “Well when people would come into the office before, we would sit down and kind of assess their needs, what they wanted, and we would offer them counseling, support groups. If medication was indicated we would give them medication for depression, anxiety, but it wasn’t intended specifically for postpartum depression.”
SHELLEY: “So what does this drug do?”
BRIANA: “So this drug, the biggest thing about it is that’s it’s fast acting. So for someone in an acute situation or an emergent situation where possibly they were suicidal or homicidal, this would be a great, great resource for them.”
SHELLEY: “It’s very expensive though. Will insurance cover it?”
BRIANA: “We’re still trying to figure that.”
SHELLEY: “I mean we’re talking like $34,000 for one treatment.”
BRIANA: “$34,000 for one treatment and it’s a 60-hour infusion so that doesn’t include the hospitalization because obviously you’re going to have to get that somewhere.”
SHELLEY: “So it’s more than $34,000, will insurance cover that?”
BRIANA: “It’s still kind of up in the air, we’re finding some literature saying yes, but of course it’s a new drug so with any new drug you know it kind of has to prove itself first.”
SHELLEY: “So kind of to be decided, talk to your doctor and insurance about all this. But if you’re in a life or death situation where you’re feeling like you could hurt yourself or your child you need to act immediately.”
BRIANA: “You need to act immediately.”
SHELLEY: “There are some side effects to this drug and they’re serious as well. Tell me about that.”
BRIANA: “They haven’t really found a lot of serious side effects, really no long terms ones. What we’re finding most is people that are dizzy or fainting, but as things go on, they may find more. Right now the dizziness and the fainting are the two most common.”
SHELLEY: “And you said it’s a 60 hour IV in the hospital. Why is it done like that?”
BRIANA: “It’s just an intravenous infusion.”
SHELLEY: “It’s just the way that drug is, it has to be administered that slowly? That’s just the way that is? How quickly does it take effect, you said right away?”
BRIANA: “A lot of studies are showing around 48 hours, one study even showed 24 hours.”
SHELLEY: “How long does it last then?”
BRIANA: “Right now they’re finding about a month, they haven’t really found that it goes beyond that but that at least gives people, the patient, enough time to get another drug on board, something else, because that’s the biggest barrier with drugs that we have used in the past and that it usually takes three or four weeks before they feel the effects of that drug.”
SHELLEY: “So you may need this just to get over that really serious hump and then get another protocol going after that. Okay that makes sense. So, you may not have to spend $34,00 next month. Alright that makes sense. Is it being used here locally yet?”
BRIANA: “Um not that I’ve heard, it only was approved on Tuesday so I’m sure there’s more to come.”
SHELLEY: “Okay good, and so stay tuned. But we want to stress the fact that if there’s a mom out there right now who may be feeling depression, postpartum depression, there is places to go for help and this is some of them right here. Postpartum.net and Postpartumdads.org and that phone number right there 1-800-944-4PPD, that is a number you can call to get help immediately. Also obviously call your doctor.”
BRIANA: “Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.”
SHELLEY: “Act immediately if it’s that serious. Alright, Briana Alvey thank you so much for shedding some light on this very, very exciting to have this. Thanks.”
(This story was originally published on March 21, 2019)