Ketamine 'shows promise' in treatment of depression, study claims

Ketamine 'shows promise' in treatment of depression, study claims

Ketamine could also help in the starting stages of treatment, since most anti-depressants take four to six weeks to take effect.

Findings were published from the first study by a drug company to examine ketamine as a treatment option for depression.

A nasal spray formulation of ketamine has shown fast-acting benefits for depression and suicidal thoughts.

The researchers found that depression scores were significantly improved and suicidal ideation was decreased among the esketamine group as compared to the placebo group at four hours and at 24 hours.

All 68 participants were hospitalised and given antidepressants in the study, carried out by Johnson and Johnson-owned research group Janssen in conjunction with the Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. James Stone of the Royal College of Psychiatrists told the news publication that the USA research about ketamine is "interesting".

The editors added that steps should be taken to make sure ketamine-based treatment will "continue to be available to those with need, while the population that is at-risk for abuse is protected from an epidemic of misuse". Patients who received esketamine showed significantly greater improvement in suicidal thoughts at 4 hours (effect size = 0.67), but not at 24 hours after the first dose (effect size = 0.35) or at day 25 (effect size = 0.29).

Despite its effectiveness, further research needs to be conducted before the FDA can approve the esketamine nasal spray for use. "Such steps initiated early in the development of ketamine and other drugs whose therapeutic potential is complicated by the potential for abuse would not be meant to deny therapeutic help to patients with significant need", Freedman and colleagues wrote.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are also studying ketamine as a treatment for depression taken intravenously.

Dr James Stone, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the BBC that the results were "interesting", not least because of the involvement of pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson.

"The main reason for its significance is because this is being developed by a drug company and it's potentially quite likely that this medication might become available as a treatment available on the NHS for depression".

Prof Mitul Mehta from King's College said it was an "exciting" study.

Ketamine is best known for being a popular recreational drug and a powerful medical anesthetic, but an increasing body of research is showing that the compound may also be effective in treating psychiatric disorders, such as depression. This is happening in private clinics in the USA and the UK. They see it as depression treatment that can be applied intravenously.

In the United Kingdom, doctors have been trialling ketamine to treat depression since 2011. "We look forward to the completion of our ongoing phase 3 trials and to bringing this important, potential new therapy to patients in desperate need".

Past year he called for the use of ketamine to treat depression to be rolled out.

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