Ketamine Eyed as Treatment for Depression

By Steve Barrett
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) yields remission rates of close to 70 percent for clinically depressed patients who have not responded to antidepressants. However, it can cause side effects, including confusion and retrograde amnesia.

Now, ketamine — a general anesthetic that has a reputation as a party drug — has gained attention for its potential to treat depression among those for whom other approaches have failed. Cleveland Clinic researchers are leading a study comparing the effectiveness and side effects of ECT to those of ketamine.

They and scientists from Yale University, Baylor College of Medicine and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York are tracking 400 patients with treatment-resistant depression. Participants will receive ECT three times a week or infusions of ketamine twice a week, Cleveland Magazine reports. The nearly $12 million study will assess efficacy and side effects over a two-year period.

“Hopefully we can learn what kinds of patients seem to respond best, what regimen we can use to help them respond optimally and what impact that can have,” Donald Malone, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s Chair of the Center for Behavioral Health, told the magazine. “About 10 percent of everybody has an episode of depression sometime in their lifetime. If you realize about 20 percent of those patients who do have depression don’t respond very well to our traditional treatments, that leaves huge numbers of individuals who are suffering.”