A ‘CHEMICAL cousin’ of party drug ketamine is to be used to treat depression.
The fast-acting drug, esketamine, will be administered through a nasal spray called Spravato.
It comes after US health chiefs this week approved Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc’s bid to market the drug for treatment-resistant depression.
Esketamine is similar to ketamine, a powerful animal tranquilliser now popular with hedonistic clubbers.
It will be available to American patients who have tried at least two other medications without success and should be taken with an oral anti-depressant.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug on Tuesday March 12, reports CNN.
For most patients, Spravato will be administered by an approved health professional in a doctor’s office or clinic.
Patients can also administer it themselves, but only under the supervision of an approved person and they are not permitted to take the nasal spray home.
Dr Tiffany Farchione, whose team reviewed the drug, said: “There has been a longstanding need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition.
“Because of concerns, the drug will only be available through a restricted distribution system and it must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient.”
The spray will be administered either once a week or every other week, depending on the individual’s needs.
Patients must be monitored for at least two hours after taking the drug.
According to Janssen, it works by restoring brain cells in patients.
Side effects include dizziness, nausea, vertigo, anxiety, lethargy, increased blood pressure, vomiting, feeling drunk, decreased sensitivity, sedation and dissociation, a feeling of being temporarily “disconnected” from your body and your mind.
The FDA said the drug’s label will contain a warning to alert patients to the risk of “sedation, and difficulty with attention, judgment and thinking, abuse and misuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours after administration of the drug.”
Clinical trials found concerns over its potential for misuse and abuse, given its relationship to ketamine, to be unfounded.
Greg Panico, of Janssen, said: ”We are working quickly to educate and certify treatment centers on the unique administration requirements of SPRAVATO™ to ensure patients can access this important medicine.”