A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine has found that Spravato, an esketamine nasal spray prescribed for treatment-resistant depression, is more effective on patients than a more commonly used drug, Quetiapine.

As explained by NBC news, Spravato (esketamine) is a more potent form of ketamine, which is an anesthetic used by doctors for over a decade to treat severe depression.  In this newly published study, this ketamine-derived nasal spray has shown promise in more long-term treatment and remission for patients with depression that is treatment resistant—or is non-responsive to two or more drug treatments in succession. 

Treatment resistant depression affects anywhere from 30% to 50% of people with major depressive disorder, making treatment-resistant-depression “a pretty significant problem,” as Dr. Michael Grunebaum of Columbia University Medical Center told NBC.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, involving 676 adults with treatment-resistant depression, aimed to compare the effects of esketamine and Quetiapine by giving half of the study’s patients Spravato (esketamine) nasal spray in addition to their regular SSRI regimen, while the other half received quetiapine in addition to their respective SSRI regimens.

The study found that after two months (eight weeks) of this treatment, 27.1% of patients taking Spravato (esketamine) were in remission — meaning they were largely symptom-free — compared to 17.6% of the quetiapine group.  While this number of patients in remission may seem small, it’s important to note that at the 32 week mark of the trial nearly half of patients in the esketamine group and less than a third of the patients in the quetiapine group were in remission. 

This study shows great promise for Spravato and its future as a solution for treatment-resistant depression. In comparison to a similar study conducted back in 2000, Spravato patients were more often staying in remission long-term, as opposed to the then 13% of patients in remission that “got better, but it was evanescent. “They went back to being depressed,” as explained to NBC by one of the study’s authors Dr. Allan Young.

Spravato, the brand name for esketamine, a newly approved option for treatment-resistant depression.

There are many more steps to take with depression medication in treating patients that are treatment-resistant, but as this new study and others show, lots of promise is being shown in the Spravato (esketamine) nasal spray.

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