Ketamine is emerging as a potential new drug for depression — the first of its kind in 35 years.
Johnson & Johnson is actively pursuing a nasal formulation of the drug. Researchers plan to present the results of an advanced clinical trial of the formula next month at the American Psychiatric Association meeting.
An early glimpse at some of the results suggests that the formula is safe and linked with sustained improvements in depressive symptoms over a year.
Ketamine, which has been called “the most important discovery in half a century,” just got a step closer to becoming the first new drug for depression in 35 years.
The compound has a reputation as a party drug, but many experts say that’s unfair, since ketamine is increasingly being studied for its potential use as a rapid-fire treatment for depression.
In people who live with the disease, thoughts of suicide can strike suddenly and without warning. Fast-acting, successful interventions are hard to come by. But a spate of recent research suggests ketamine could provide quick and powerful relief — even to people whose depression has repeatedly failed to respond to other medications, as well as to individuals who are suicidal.
The promising studies on the treatment so far have come with one important caveat, however: the drug has to be taken intravenously, or via an injection, over roughly 45 minutes. That makes it a lot harder to get and take than a typical antidepressant pills such as Lexapro.
With that in mind, Johnson & Johnson company Janssen Research and Development has been actively pursuing the development of a formulation of the drug that would be safe and more convenient to administer. They’re not alone: Allergan is in the last phase of clinical trials with a drug that acts on the same receptor as ketamine.
Yet Johnson & Johnson may be the furthest ahead in its research. The company received breakthrough therapy designation for its nasal formulation from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016, an elite and competitive status that is designed to speed the drug through the complex federal approval process.
Earlier this month, the company shared with Business Insider some early results of a clinical trial of the nasal-spray formulation of the drug. The results suggest that the formula is well-tolerated by patients and linked with long-lasting improvements in depressive symptoms.
The promising science on ketamine
Ketamine’s utility as an antidepressant has recently started to gain attention.
A recent study …
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