NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY
Johnson & Johnson is expected to release results of an eleven-month advanced clinical trial assessing the drug ketamine as an antidepressant. Ketamine is already on the market, but it is approved only as a powerful anesthetic, so it can only be prescribed as an off-label drug for depression. That leaves insurance companies hesitant to reimburse patients for the $400-$1,000 out-of-pocket expense. Another hurdle Johnson & Johnson is addressing is inconvenience. Ketamine is currently available only through IV, and the new drug is administered in a nasal spray. Ketamine has long been known to curb severe depression quickly, even in patients who have been unresponsive to other antidepressants. Tests, performed by Janssen Research & Development of Johnson & Johnson, combined esketamine with a common oral antidepressant and found the treatments had a high correlation with safe and sustained improvements in symptoms of depression, including suicidal ideation. Ketamine, also a known dissociative hallucinogen, is considered a “party drug” in certain circles.