KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Experts say that a drug related to ketamine which was recently approved by American authorities could be a “watershed” moment in treating depression.
The “rapid acting” drug called esketamine, which will be sold under the brand name Spravato by Johnson & Johnson, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients with depression who do not respond to traditional psychiatric drugs.
“For a long time, all our standard antidepressants have been ‘me too’ drugs,” the Guardian quoted 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 saying.
He reportedly said standard antidepressants like Prozac were “pretty much all the same”.
“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,” Dunn said.
The psychiatrist reportedly believed esketamine would be the first in a class of rapid acting depression treatments, whose effects would be felt in hours or days, compared to weeks for traditional antidepressants.
Ketamine, generally used as an anaesthetic, is also a party drug called “Special K” with powerful dissociative, or out-of-body effects.
Hence, patients will reportedly be prohibited from bringing esketamine home. Patients have to take the nasal spray at an approved clinic and stay there for at least two hours.
The drug reportedly costs between US$4,720 and US$6,785 in the first month, before declining to US$2,360 to US$3,540 monthly.