Ketamine proving an effective way of combatting treatment-resistant depression

Scientists say the news is "promising".
Scientists say the news is "promising". Photo credit: Getty

Ketamine is proving an effective way to combat treatment-resistant depression in a New Zealand based study.

Douglas Pharmaceuticals announced on Monday the majority of patients treated with an extended-release oral dose of ketamine (R-107) experienced rapid relief of their symptoms. 

The study enrolled 234 subjects diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, who had failed to respond to at least two anti-depressants. 

They had a mean score of 31 on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale - a scale used to assess how severe a patients depression is. 

The scale gauges a series of symptoms and scores each to create a total score of up to 60. The closer to 60 people score, the more depressed they are.

The patients were dosed with R-107 daily for five days and then assessed again. Over the week of R-107 treatment, the mean score on the Montgomery-Åsberg scale plummeted from 31 to 13.

On top of this 169 of the subjects were classified as treatment responders, with a score of 12 on the scale. 

Those who responded to the treatment then enter a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled 12-week study where they receive either R-170 or placebo twice a week - the results from this are expected in November.

Once these results are in, Douglas Pharmaceuticals will start its commercial partnering for new drug application and phase three trials - large scale trials using hundreds of thousands of participants.

Professor Paul Glue, MD, University of Otago and National Lead Investigator for the trial says it's promising news.

"As a researcher, a psychiatrist and clinician who treats many patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression, I am really encouraged by this data."

He says the rapid improvement is "particularly impressive" and if it's confirmed, could be a game-changer for people with serious depression. 

"It will have a significant impact on the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder as well as those with increased risk of suicidality."