Ketamine for depression treatment on fast track by FDA
If you are suffering from depression, there may be a promising new treatment on the horizon. The catch? You have to be OK with taking the party drug, Ketamine.
Apparently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put esketamine, a derivate of Ketamine, on the fast track for approval to treat Major Depressive Disorder. The announcement came yesterday from Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson and Johnson company.
Designated as a “breakthrough” therapy, the drug would offer psychiatrists a new method for quickly helping people who have suicidal tendencies.
If all goes according to plan, esketamine would be the first drug approved for Major Depressive Disorder in half a century. Currently, many doctors prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft and Prozac, as pathways to treatment.
The problem with ketamine as a potential treatment modality is that historically, the drug has been linked to people who “party”. Referred to by some as simply “K”, ketamine has been tied to date rapes and other situations involving foul play.
Many people describe the experience of being on ketamine as dissociative. In some recreational drug taking circles, this out of body “high” is referred to as a “K-Hole.” This makes sense when you consider that ketamine is currently used as a form of anesthesia.
There are two studies currently being done, according to the 24-hour news site, CNN.
“Janssen is working on clinical trials for two indications for esketamine: one for treatment-resistant depression and another for depression with suicidal thoughts. The company plans to present its phase III data for treatment-resistant depression in 2018 and file with the FDA that year.”
The apparent benefit of using this drug to treat depression is how fast it works. At present, SSRI’s and other pill forms of anti-depressant medications can take up to six weeks to work. Esketamine, on the other hand, may offer relief in just a few hours. See this page from the National Institutes of Health for more insight.
If approved, the drug will be administered in doctors offices and not through pharmacies.
“We want to make sure patients are protected,” said Dr. David Hough to CNN, a psychiatrist and medical professional for esketamine research at Janssen.
Hough also stated that when depressed patients are treated with esketamine, blood pressure may increase and they may feel dizzy. Other possible physiological effects may also occur immediately after use.
As a result, anyone given esketamine would be observed for a minimum of two-hours after the drug is administered.
Currently, suicide is ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with approximately 41,000 people taking their own lives each year according to the CDC.
Within the LGBT community, depression is a going concern. While the statistics are somewhat scattered, the current research suggests that depression affects LGBT people at a higher rate when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.