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A ketamine-based nasal spray could soon be used against depression

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The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) could soon authorise the development of a ketamine-based nasal spray to help combat depression.  Overtime the treatment could be proposed to people who have tried other types of therapies that have failed. 

Ketamine and depression

Although it is less known than cannabis or cocaine, ketamine (an anesthetic that is used particularly by vets) is becoming increasingly common nightlife drug.  In this article we are talking about esketamine which is a variant of anesthetic ketamine.  It has a similar a chemical makeup but the doses are a lot smaller.  For several years it has been known that this drug is an effective treatment against depression.  It is sometimes used to help people who suffer from very severe depressive states.  Although there is currently limited access to this medication, this could soon change.

A group of independent experts have just evaluated whether a product developed by Johnson & Johnson using this drug should be approved by the FDA.  The product in question is a ketamine-based nasal spray.  In general it looks like the advantages of this new spray outweigh the risks.  In fact, of the 17 members on the panel who could vote for it’s approval, there were 14 that voted for, 2 against and 1 person abstained from voting.  It remains to be seen if the FDA will take the advice of the group of experts however it looks like this new medication will be finally approved.

kétamine dépression
Esketamine could one day be used to treat depression. Credits: Wikipedia

Using esketamine under certain conditions

The advantage of esketamine, in contrast to treatments currently available , is that it’s effects on the patients mood take effect more quickly.  Sometimes only a few hours is enough instead of a few days or even weeks as is the case with other treatments.  A esketamine-based nasal spray could turn out to be very useful for people suffering from an immediate crisis. It could also be effective for people who suffer from suicidal thoughts.  However the treatment should be used only under certain conditions.

During the five clinical trials that have already been carried our, patients seem to show certain undesirable side effects in the two hours after taking the medication.  If the treatment is approved, the drug could only be administered in a few health care establishments.  This is so the patients can be observed during this time lapse.

In terms of dosage, it has been advised that a dose should be administered two times per week in a clinic for four weeks along with a new oral antidepressant. The patients will then go down to one dose per week for four weeks.  The independent experts have highlighted the need to look into the effects of this medicine, even if it is approved.  No treatment like this has been approved by the FDA since 1986 when Prozac hit the market.

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