Promising results in trial using ketamine for treatment-resistant depression

Promising results in trial using ketamine for treatment-resistant depression

Ketamine: A Groundbreaking Treatment for Severe Depression

Ketamine Treatment for Depression

Dr. Dan Iosifescu, a psychiatry professor at NYU School of Medicine, shares an incredible story of a patient who had been battling depression for years. Despite trying various medications, none had offered relief and had only left the patient with unpleasant side effects. The patient’s life became increasingly difficult as they were unable to participate in their normal routines, isolating themselves from their loved ones. However, a life-altering breakthrough came when the patient was introduced to ketamine, a “dissociative” anesthetic[^1^].

Ketamine has been under investigation as a potential treatment for depression, which is a leading cause of disability worldwide. A recent study conducted in Australia and New Zealand demonstrated that a low-cost version of ketamine provided significant relief for participants with severe depression. Astonishingly, 20% of those receiving ketamine achieved total remission from their symptoms, while a third experienced at least a 50% improvement. In contrast, only 2% of the control group achieved total remission[^1^].

To conduct the study, researchers recruited 179 individuals with treatment-resistant depression, including those who had previously attempted electroconvulsive therapy without success. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either ketamine or a placebo twice a week for a month. Both the patients and the researchers remained unaware of who was receiving the actual drug. Notably, the participants’ dosages were tailored according to their clinical response, emphasizing the importance of individualized treatment[^1^][^6^].

Dr. Colleen Loo, the lead researcher of the study from the University of New South Wales, highlighted the significance of dose adjustment based on clinical response. She explained that optimizing the benefit of ketamine depended on personalized dosage, ensuring the best outcomes for each patient. Dr. Loo expressed her view that ketamine is the most effective treatment to emerge for depression in the last eight decades. Notably, she highlighted that other effective depression treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, medications, and psychedelics, share similar positive effects on neurons and brain functionality at both microscopic and macro levels[^5^].

An essential aspect of ketamine treatment is its remarkable speed compared to traditional antidepressants. While standard antidepressant medications can take weeks or even months to provide clinical benefits, ketamine’s effects become noticeable much faster[^1^][^4^]. This rapid action gives it an edge in treating depression, as patients do not have to endure extended waiting periods to determine whether a specific medication will work for them.

However, despite the remarkable benefits of ketamine for depression, certain challenges remain[^1^]. Ketamine is not suitable for everyone, particularly individuals with psychotic disorders. Additionally, the therapeutic effects of ketamine wear off relatively quickly, necessitating ongoing treatment. Unfortunately, access to sustained treatment is limited due to the time-intensive nature of each administration and the significant cost associated with ketamine treatments[^1^].

In Australia, where the study was conducted, the patented S-ketamine nasal spray costs approximately $800 per dose, further increasing to around $300 when medical supervision is factored in to ensure the safety of the experience[^1^]. However, for this study, researchers utilized generic ketamine, significantly reducing costs to as little as $5 per session. In Australia, with the additional expense of medical care, a session can cost around $350[^1^]. The cost of ketamine treatment in the United States also varies since it is prescribed “off-label.” On average, each infusion costs several hundred dollars, making it unlikely to be covered by insurance[^1^].

Considering these limitations, the immediate hope is to develop a similar compound that can be administered orally. This would allow individuals to self-administer the treatment at home, reducing costs and increasing accessibility. Dr. Iosifescu believes that even if the oral alternative is not as effective as ketamine, it would still provide valuable continued benefits that ketamine has initially demonstrated. Several companies are actively working on ketamine-like molecules for oral administration, with some already in advanced stages of development. However, these potential replacements still need to undergo rigorous testing to demonstrate their efficacy[^1^].

The publication of this groundbreaking study in the British Journal of Psychiatry represents a significant milestone in the quest for effective depression treatments. Ketamine has shown tremendous potential in providing rapid relief for individuals with severe depression where other interventions have failed. As researchers continue to explore new avenues to improve accessibility and develop alternative oral options, this innovative treatment offers hope for those affected by this debilitating mental health condition[^1^][^7^].


[^1^] Sarah D. Collins, HealthDay Reporter – HealthDay: “Ketamine as Effective as Treatment for Depression as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)”

[^2^] Harvard Health – Harvard Medical School: “Ketamine for major depression: Is it ready for prime time?

[^3^] British Journal of Psychiatry: “Oral ketamine augmentation for chronic suicidal ideation in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized clinical trial

[^4^] MedicineNet: “Depression Quiz: Signs & Symptoms

[^5^] University of New South Wales: “Low-cost ketamine could be a gamechanger in treating depression

[^6^] New York Times: “Ketamine Relieves Depression By Restoring Brain Connections

[^7^] More information: Harvard Health has more on ketamine