New postpartum drug highlights continuing divide between the rich and the poor

Let’s start with the good news: For the first time ever, the FDA has approved a drug specifically designed to deal with postpartum depression (PPD). The drug is called Zulresso, and it is produced by Sage Therapeutics.

We know that PPD can be absolutely devastating. According to the article linked above, as many as one in nine women are hit by PPD. So the availability of a clinically successful drug designed specifically for PPD can be a godsend.

Now for the bad news: The cost and time period associated with Zulresso may put it far out of reach of many.

First, the cost: A whopping $34,000. That number might be slightly out of range for…you know, everyone not made of money.

As for it’s method of delivery? That’s another challenge: It has to be administered intravenously, over a 2.5 day period, in a certified clinic. That’s 2.5 days where a woman cannot work, cannot care for her baby (or the rest of her family). And let’s keep in mind, many women simply cannot afford to take 2.5 days off from work, and this is particularly true for hourly workers or those who are economically insecure.

Tragically – and unsurprisingly – women who need this help the most are also most likely to have this drug and its potential benefits out of reach. There are some women who are more likely to experience PPD, and unsurprisingly, in many cases, these are women who are more economically or socially vulnerable. These factors include job loss and a lack of other emotional, familial or financial support.

Simply put, this may mean that this new drug it is not an option for many. We know that tougher economic times – and tougher economic circumstances – lead to an increase in PPD cases. This treatment – both its costs and length of treatment – may be out of reach for many poorer women and their families.

To be clear, I’m not trying to poo-poo the potential success for Zulresso. I am trying to make a broader point though: Many areas of mental health treatment are, sadly, out of reach for the poorest among us. Hopefully, medical advances will continue to improve and make Zulresso’s life-saving benefits available for all women and families in society, regardless of their economic station in life.

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