Published: Fri, March 08, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

J&J prices ketamine-like depression treatment at $590-$885 for two doses

J&J prices ketamine-like depression treatment at $590-$885 for two doses

The FDA approved Spravato, known chemically as esketamine, based on study results that showed patients taking the drug experienced a bigger improvement in their depression levels than patients taking a sham treatment, when measured with a psychiatric questionnaire. Since the 1990s, ketamine has gained notoriety in the underground rave scene as "Special K", which can produce psychedelic effects. Agency approval came with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) to restrict esketamine to certified treatment centers where patients are monitored for 2 hours, prohibit it from being dispensed directly to patients, and enroll patients in a registry.

The approval of J&J's modern-day anti-depressant nasal spray marks the first advanced treatment innovated for fighting depression in decades. Spravato is meant to treat patients who have major depressive disorder (MDD) and have not responded "adequately" to two at least two different types of antidepressants.

Esketamine works on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, an ionotropic glutamate receptor in the brain. Patients are required to sign a form attesting that they understand they need to make arrangements to safely get home and that they can not drive or use heavy machinery on the day they receive the drug.

The US Food and Drink Administration (FDA) yesterday licensed the nasal spray for use by those who have already tried at least two medications for depression, without success. Despite this, advisory committee members voted overwhelmingly to support the drug. But the FDA approval, he adds, is a step toward having another viable and safe treatment for major depression.

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According to Business Insider, the cost of the drug isn't cheap: the price tag ranges anywhere between US$590 to US$885 per treatment session, depending on how high of a dose a patient needs.

Esketamine is created to be administered intranasally twice a week for an initial 4 weeks, in conjunction with a newly initiated oral antidepressant.

The drug is to treat severe symptoms of depression, including adults with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Like the ketamine sold legally for anesthesia, Spravato is a Schedule III controlled substance, along with opioid painkillers, due to the potential for abuse leading to dependence.

The most common side effects of Spravato include sedation, disassociation, dizziness, nausea, vertigo, lethargy, hypoesthesia or decreased sensitivity, anxiety, increased blood pressure, as well as vomiting. The company did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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