Janssen Pharmaceuticals' esketamine has been given the go-ahead for use among those with depression who have already tried two or more other medications, CNN reported Tuesday. The treatment will be available as a nasal spray by the name of Spravato and is required to be administered at a doctor's office or clinic. Dosage recommendations vary depending on the person, with suggested treatment frequencies ranging from once or twice a week to every other week. A post-treatment monitoring period of two hours is also required.
"There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition," Tiffany Farchione, M.D.—acting director of the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products—said in a press release Tuesday. "Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with careful review through the FDA's drug approval process including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important to our decision to approve this treatment."
In the same release, the FDA explained that esketamine is ketamine's s-enantiomer. Ketamine itself is comprised of two enantiomers, which are mirrored molecules.
Ketamine was approved by the FDA way back in 1970 as Ketalar, known for its effectiveness and safety in matters of anesthesia. Of course, it's also frequently used recreationally and has been extensively studied for its possible depression benefits. A Washington Post article from 2016 broke down some of that research, pointing to studies dating back as far as 2006 that showed special K could potentially be more effective than traditional antidepressants.