Sage’s oral postpartum depression treatment shows strong early demand 

Sage’s oral postpartum depression treatment shows strong early demand 

USA – Sage Therapeutics said its new medicine, the first oral treatment for postpartum depression, is off to an encouraging start, with signs of demand from prescribing doctors. 

Sage and partner Biogen began selling the drug, Zurzuvae, in mid-December and on Wednesday Sage shared the first data from an estimated 10 days when doctors’ offices were open at the end of the month. 

 During that time, physicians wrote about 120 prescriptions for the drug and 50 prescriptions were shipped and delivered to patients. 

Net revenue from the drug during the short window in December totaled US$1.6 million, of which Sage received half as part of its collaboration with Biogen.  

Both psychiatrists and OB-GYNs prescribed Zurzuvae in about equal numbers, as well as a small number of primary care physicians. That suggests women coming in for post-birth checkups are getting direct help. 

“One of the things that we were wondering about is, are the OB-GYNs really going to be willing to prescribe?” Biogen CEO Chris Viehbacher told investors and analysts on a company call Tuesday. “We’re seeing quite a high percentage of the prescriptions coming from them.” 

Zurzuvae represents an easier option for women dealing with depression after childbirth than Sage’s older Zulresso, which requires a 60-hour continuous infusion.  

Prescriptions for Zurzuvae are filled through a specialty pharmacy system and shipped directly to the homes of patients, who must then take the capsules once a day for 14 days. 

Analyst highlights shipping concerns  

In a note to investors Wednesday, Stifel analyst Paul Matteis called Sage’s update encouraging, though he flagged the time it takes to ship the medicine as a factor to watch. 

 Immediate treatment is important for postpartum depression, and many doctors see the generic antidepressant sertraline (originally sold under the brand name Zoloft) as a viable alternative easily available at a pharmacy, he said. 

A generic antidepressant is also a cheaper alternative. Biogen and Sage set the price of Zurzuvae at $15,900 for the two-week course of treatment. Still, that’s well below the $34,000 wholesale cost for Sage’s injectable Zulresso. 

Zulresso revenue dipped in the fourth quarter to US$2 million, compared with $2.9 million in the year-previous period, Sage said. The company also warned investors that revenue from the older medicine will likely decrease over time as sales of Zurzuvae increase. 

Biogen and Sage won approval for Zurzuvae to treat postpartum depression in August but had to wait for scheduling from the Drug Enforcement Administration before making it commercially available.  

Sales teams from both companies are promoting the medicine’s benefits with doctors, and Biogen’s Viehbacher said initial signs point to strong coverage from insurers. 

Yet the approval for Zurzuvae was also disappointing for the companies, who had hoped to sell the drug in the much bigger market for major depressive disorder but got rejected for that indication. The limited clearance led to substantial layoffs at Sage. 

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