FDA Approves Ketamine Spray to Treat Depression

By David Jenison on March 8, 2019

Studies strongly suggest that ketamine helps fight treatment-resistant depression, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now officially agrees. Late Tuesday, the FDA approved the nasal spray esketamine for treating depression, and as the name implies, the club drug is a primary component. 

Approving the medical use of Special K naturally comes with lots of conditions, including supervision during and after a patient receives a dose, and the packaging carries a high-risk black box warning. Nevertheless, the medication demonstrated efficacy in treating depression in patients who do not respond to Prozac and other common therapeutic options. Moreover, the nasal spray starts to work within hours, while standard oral medications may take weeks or months to work, if at all. 

Esketamine targets the brain chemical glutamate, which differs from other antidepressants that target serotonin, dopamine and/or norepinephrine. Last month, the FDA advisory council recommended approval of the drug by a 14 to 2 vote. 

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a branch of Johnson & Johnson, developed the drug and will sell it under the brand name Spravato. 

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