Ketamine: can it really be an antidepressant?
Experts warn that it isn’t necessarily a “miracle cure” – it can come with side-effects and nothing is known about the risks of using it long term. [Afterall], the [patient outcome] results were decidedly mixed and some scientists have pointed out that the FDA relaxed its usual rules for accepting drugs, in order to let it through.
“The researchers were astounded at how well it worked for me,” she says. “There were other patients for whom the effects lasted for maybe a day, but for me it was two weeks. So after that I began going to a treatment centre once a month for an infusion and now that’s how I live. If I go too long without it, things can quickly slip back. But I have hope now.” Part of the reason that Spravato has been developed, and now approved by the FDA, is to try to make ketamine more accessible. The $900 cost per treatment and its being administered as a nasal spray reduces the risk of side-effects compared with an infusion. The only snag is that it’s not technically ketamine. Ketamine is made up of two mirror-image molecules, so in order to turn it into a potential cash cow, pharma company Janssen patented the left one – esketamine – and turned it into a drug and named it Spravato. The problem is that there’s not a huge amount of evidence that it’s as effective as ketamine infusions. For a start, Spravato has only been studied in four fairly small phase III trials, three of which lasted only four weeks. The results were decidedly mixed and some scientists have pointed out that the FDA relaxed its usual rules for accepting drugs, in order to let it through.