Sage strategy for postpartum depression drug Zulresso keys on patient support

As Sage Therapeutics' first FDA-approved postpartum drug Zulresso launches, it faces stigma challenges as well as delivery hurdles. (Sage Therapeutics)

Postpartum depression is complex—and so is the first FDA-approved treatment. The 60-hour inpatient infusion process for Sage Therapeutics' Zulresso calls for more than the typical information and education. So along with identifying appropriate healthcare facilities, Sage has created a national support center to help patients through the process.

Sage Central assigns a case manager with personal support for each patient with postpartum depression who is prescribed Zulresso. The opt-in phone-based program can also field questions from physicians and even potential patients before redirecting them to doctors.

RELATED: Sage wins OK for depression drug Zulresso. Up next? Major marketing challenges

“When we think about the transformative potential of Zulresso, we knew the product alone wasn’t going to get it there. We needed to create something like Sage Central that would be an extra support for moms and their families through this journey,” said Mike Cloonan, chief business officer at Sage.

Sage Central offers logistical support detailing where patients can go and what the process for a two-and-a-half-day infusion would be like, as well as additional local emotional support resources through partners and also, potentially, financial support, he said.

Along with the infusion delivery hurdle, Sage faces the long-standing stigma of PPD in sparking uptake for Zulresso. While one in nine women suffers from PPD, according to the CDC, only 60% are diagnosed. And even among women who are diagnosed, only half receive any treatment.

RELATED: Sage's postpartum depression effort raises awareness—but sparks ire, too

Sage’s “Know the Signs” unbranded PPD disease awareness effort launched several weeks ago with a digital campaign to raise urgency around recognizing the emotional and behavioral signs of the condition.

“These are symptoms moms may not even realize they have or they feel they have to suffer through it in silence. We are trying to bring this out of the shadows so that moms and their families are much more aware of what this can look like,” Cloonan said.

When asked if there will be a Zulresso branded campaign in the future, he said, “potentially.” Sage already has unbranded patient ambassadors talking about their experience with PPD and maybe could field brand ambassadors as they get more experience with Zulresso and patients using the treatment.

Sage sales reps are also promoting Zulresso, as well as the services and support center, to physicians and will specifically talk to HCPs about the form doctors need to fill out to connect a PPD patient to Sage Central, Cloonan said.

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