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Antidepressants are a common option for treating depression, and some are also used to treat anxiety disorders. Between 2015 and 2018, over 13 percent of U.S. adults used antidepressants daily. While this type of medication is common, how much do antidepressants cost?
And how much do antidepressants cost with insurance and without?
Because the severity and symptoms of depression vary from person to person as well as treatment plans, the cost of antidepressants can vary depending on what is prescribed.
How much antidepressants cost can also vary based on whether or not you have insurance as well as the type of insurance you have.
Below, we’ve explained how much antidepressants cost, as well as the numerous factors that affect the price of antidepressants.
First, a brief overview of the different types of antidepressants.
Antidepressants are thought to work by balancing certain chemicals in the brain associated with major depression.
Three main brain chemicals or neurotransmitters believed to be connected to depression are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Antidepressants can also be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sometimes chronic (long-term) pain. In some cases, antidepressants are used to treat bipolar disorder, although they’re used conservatively due to the risk of causing mania.
Each drug used to treat depression works in slightly different ways to ease depression symptoms.
The most common types of antidepressants are:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant. They increase the amount of serotonin in your brain by preventing the brain from reabsorbing the neurotransmitter. SSRIs generally have fewer drug interactions, safety issues and side effects than older antidepressants.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These antidepressants work in a similar way to SSRIs, only to increase levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Like other antidepressants, SNRIs can cause side effects. However, these tend to be mild and often disappear after several weeks of use.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). An older class of antidepressants, TCAs work by increasing certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. These antidepressants are about as equally as effective as SSRIs but are used much less often due to a higher risk of causing certain side effects and drug interactions.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are another older class of antidepressants. They work by blocking the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and tyramine, thereby increasing levels of these neurotransmitters. MAOIs are rarely used today except in certain circumstances, such as when other medications for depression aren’t effective.
Atypical antidepressants. Some medications, such as bupropion, are referred to as atypical antidepressants simply because they don’t fall under the other classes of antidepressants. Your healthcare provider may suggest using an atypical antidepressant if other medications are ineffective or unsuitable for you.
Our full list of antidepressants goes into more detail on all the types of antidepressants, their side effects and more.
Research suggests that antidepressants can be helpful for people with chronic, moderate or severe depression and may not have as much of an effect on symptoms of mild depression.
Antidepressants mainly treat the symptoms of depression so they are often used in combination with psychotherapy to treat more severe depression and other mental health conditions.
If a healthcare provider or mental health professional believes taking antidepressants is right for you, they’ll start you off with one that works best for your depression symptoms.
The type or dose may be modified if a drug doesn’t effectively reduce symptoms or if you experience certain side effects.
So to answer the question of how much antidepressants cost — it depends.
The price of antidepressants can vary based on:
The type of drug prescribed
Whether you take a generic or brand-name drug
Your exact dosage
Your insurance coverage
Whether you take more than one medication, such as bupropion with an SSRI
There are also factors outside of your control that influence the price of antidepressants and other prescription medications. These can include launch prices (prices set by manufacturers when medications first come on the market), research and development costs, product promotion, drug shortages and more.
If a healthcare provider prescribes an antidepressant, you’ll likely be taking the medication for a long period as antidepressants take time to be effective — another factor of how much antidepressants cost.
We’ve described what to expect for how much antidepressants cost with and without insurance below.
Depending on the type of insurance you have, the cost of antidepressants may be covered.
Prescription drugs are covered under health plans for sale in your state’s Marketplace as well as health plans sold through individual markets or offered by small employers, according to the Affordable Care Act.
You will need to review your marketplace plan to see if your insurance covers an existing prescription and which medications are covered in which states.
If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, you can find out about your plan’s coverage for prescription medications by contacting your company’s human resources (HR) office.
If you can't find your medicine on a health plan's drug list, you can request that your plan cover it or give you access to it. Ask your healthcare provider to explain the medical need.
If your request is denied, you can appeal the decision.
Depending on which antidepressant you are prescribed, there’s generally a cost range. Prices depend on your health insurance plan coverage.
So, how much do antidepressants cost without insurance?
How much antidepressants cost out of pocket (medical expenses not covered or reimbursed by insurance) can certainly increase the prices.
There can also be a wide price difference between brand-name and generic antidepressants.
However, the cost for a supply of 30 tablets of 50mg of Zoloft® (the brand name) can be hundreds of dollars.
But antidepressant costs mainly depend on the specific antidepressant, dosage and other factors.
There are ways to get affordable antidepressants even without insurance.
While the price of antidepressants can vary, studies suggest that investing in your mental health now can benefit your financial situation over the long term by improving your overall health and ability to work.
Generic versions of a brand-name medication can help you save money.
There’s often a cost difference between generic and brand-name antidepressants. On average, generic drugs cost 85 percent less than the brand version.
Generic antidepressants even saved U.S. health consumers $253 billion in 2017.
Generic medications are chemical copies of the brand-name versions.
A major difference between generic and brand-name is that the FDA gives patent protection to brand manufacturers for a period of time. Once the patent expires, generics can enter the market after meeting the same quality, safety and effectiveness FDA standards as brands.
Not all antidepressant drugs are available as generic versions though. Ask your healthcare provider if a brand-name or generic antidepressant is the best option for you based on your health and budget.
Many pharmaceutical companies also offer patient assistance programs (PAPs).
These programs offer financial assistance to low-income individuals for prescription drug coverage. You can ask your healthcare provider for more information, including how to apply.
When choosing an insurance plan, look carefully at each plan’s drug benefits or ask for more information.
You can also check prices on online and mail-order pharmacies. Make sure it’s a legitimate site as the FDA warns against the potential danger of buying medication online.
Finding treatment for depression or other mental health conditions is a big step. How much antidepressants cost shouldn’t prevent you from getting help though.
You can talk to a licensed psychiatry provider online to receive a personalized treatment plan and medication if necessary to help you treat your depressive symptoms and take control of your mental health.
Our guide on how to get antidepressants goes into more detail about the process.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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