Ketamine-Related Antidepressant Could Be “Watershed” Treatment

Esketamine, which will be sold under the brand name Spravato, is a drug related to ketamine.

ketamine antidepressant
The Food and Drug Administration approved Spravato. Officials say this will help patients who have failed to find relief with at least two antidepressants. (Janssen/ Johnson & Johnson)

Experts are cautiously optimistic about a potentially life-changing drug for people who suffer from depression but have not responded to traditional medications.

Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, esketamine, which will be sold under the brand name Spravato, is a drug related to ketamine that could be a “watershed” moment in the treatment of mental illness, The Guardian reported.

“For a long time, all our standard antidepressants have been ‘me too’ drugs,” said Dr Walter S Dunn, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles, and a member of the FDA advisory committee which recommended the drug be approved.

“As much as the companies like to say our drug is better than the next, they were pretty much all the same,” said Dunn, referring to brand-name drugs which work on similar pathways in the brain, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors like Prozac.

But Spravato was born of years of research into ketamine as a treatment for major depression.

“All the medicines have been operating under the same mechanisms so it was time to explore some of these other compounds that, yes, have been associated with recreation and abuse as potential pathways or compounds to treat depression,” said Dunn.

The drug’s recreational reputation will require it to to be administered in a clinical setting, however. Patients will need to stay at a clinic for two hours, twice a week, with possible boosters of the drug.

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