A drug similar to ketamine may be available for the treatment of severe depression before the end of the year, said a psychiatrist.
Esketamine – which is taken in a nasal spray – could be approved for use in Britain as early as November after the quick sale in the United States.
Scientists hope this drug will revolutionize the treatment of chronic depression by alleviating symptoms within hours.
Current conventional antidepressants take weeks or months to take effect.
Allan Young, a professor at King's College London, told The Guardian that many of the patients who do not respond to conventional medications may be recommended for ketamine treatment.
He said, "Pharmacology is different. It's not just the same old steam engine, it seems to work differently and faster. "
Critics have raised questions about the overall effectiveness of the drug and have asserted that a lack of long-term studies meant that taking it over long periods of time, for which it was not necessary to take it for a long time. There were no serious risks, could lead to serious security risks.
The European Medicines Agency and the UK Health Regulatory Authority will make a decision in November on licensing this drug, which Johnson & Johnson sells. in the United States under the brand Spravato.
If approved, esketamine would be available in private clinics.
Nice must make a decision on the approval of the drug for use of the NHS in March next year.
According to Professor Young, this drug could be an important alternative for the 2.7 million Britons who suffer from chronic depression and have not responded to conventional drugs.
How it works?
The most commonly used drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by preventing the brain from cleaning serotonin, a chemical.
They usually take six to eight weeks to have an impact on the symptoms.
Ketamine appears to act on a different brain chemical, glutamate, and studies in animals have helped to restore links between brain cells, which are thought to shrink for long periods of time. depression.
In the form of a nasal spray, it is administered at doses well below those of the street drug, ketamine.
But side effects can include hallucinations, dizziness and anxiety.
Patients taking this medication should spend two hours under surveillance each week to ensure that they do not develop negative side effects.
The amount of monitoring needed will likely become a barrier to making the drug a common treatment option.
Wes Boyd, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, is among those critical of the drug, but some clinical trials have not shown a sufficient difference between the drug administered and the placebo group.
The trials were mostly short-term and the drug costs £ 25,800 per person per year in the United States.
Professor Boyd said, "The cost of esketamine is extremely high and has a very important and frightening profile of side effects.
"It's so dangerous that clinicians are forced to sit with patients for two hours after the drug is administered.
"The result is that the drug is an oversized scam."