Excitement about IV Ketamine
Recently, I shared my perspective about the consensus statement released by the American Psychiatric Association’s Council of Research on Novel Biomarkers and Treatments Task Force. Their statement was about the use of IV ketamine for treating mood and other psychiatric disorders.
That Task Force, in its consensus statement, assured members of the APA that there’s compelling evidence that IV ketamine has the ability to provide rapid and robust antidepressant effects in patients with treatment-resistant mood disorders.
Well, I was delighted to see that NPR published an article this past Monday, March 20, 2017, about Gerard Sanacora, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, and his personal reflections on IV ketamine for mood disorders. You should read the article, too.
Gerard Sanacora is a member of the same Task Force. He says he’s treated hundreds of patients who are severely depressed with IV ketamine and is excited about the results in these patients’ lives.
He says doctors have asked him how he can use a medication when there is still unknown data about long-term use.
What Would You Do?
“If you have patients that are likely to seriously injure themselves or kill themselves within a short period of time, and they’ve tried the standard treatments, how do you not offer this treatment?” he says.
Well, that’s how I feel, too, and why I offer IV ketamine infusions. In good conscience, with what I know about ketamine, how could I not? It’s what growing numbers of other psychiatrists are feeling, too.
Ketamine has an effect no other medicine has had before. Within hours it can erase the suicidal thoughts of someone who’s been on the verge of suicide for some time.
It removes the self-destructive thoughts, and the terrible mental images of death. And it happens fast.
This one extraordinary effect is changing the way we approach severely depressed individuals. There is something we can do to bring our patients relief from this dangerous, life-threatening symptom. And it succeeds in bringing them relief in 80% of cases.
Dozens of doctors responded to surveys in the US and Canada, reporting that over 3,000 patients have been treated for mood disorders with ketamine. The good news is spreading, as well it should be!
Even so, as we’ve discussed before, IV ketamine treatment has still not been studied in enough depth to answer some questions that remain unanswered. And that’s because of the lack of large-scale trials. Large-scale trials are needed. And with the attention ketamine is receiving from pharmaceutical companies, I expect those trials are just ahead.
James Murrough, M.D. at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai in New York, worries that because of the lack of large trials, it’s not yet known how long a treatment regimen can be continued safely. And it’s true that it will take years of studies to establish that.
From his perspective, that’s troubling because IV ketamine can wear off in a few days or a few weeks. Repeat infusions are necessary to prevent the return of depression. So, unless a form of ketamine is developed that lasts a great deal longer, we’ll need to continue giving those treatments to those who need them… until they achieve remission.
But in spite of that, he strongly feels the case for IV ketamine is warranted and justified…much stronger than a few years ago. And so do we.
Most Promising Since Prozac
“There’s warranted caution that’s balanced with an optimism that says we’ve never had a new medication for depression since the era of Prozac,” Murrough says.
IV Ketamine: Doing what Prozac Can’t
No new medication for depression since Prozac!!!
So just a quick review: Prozac emerged in the 1980’s and was the first of a “new class” of depression drugs targeting serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters.
Prozac opened a world of possibilities in psychiatric treatment. But there have been far too many who suffered from mood disorders and were never helped by Prozac and its offshoots.
Since then, sure, there have been new medications and new neurotransmitters that have caught our fancy — mine, too. But no drug has has been more effective, more rapid, and more transformative — with an entirely novel mechanism of action — than IV ketamine.
IV Ketamine – Doing What Prozac Can’t
Because ketamine acts on a different neurotransmitter than Prozac and other common antidepressants. Instead of Prozac’s focus on serotonin, ketamine acts on glutamate, another neurotransmitter that acts on a different system. Murrough says that because ketamine’s been so remarkably successful, the pharmaceutical companies are pulling old drugs off the shelf that act on the glutamate system.
They’re as excited as we are at the possibility of creating a whole new class of more effective drugs for depression.
So, there is actually a possible contender in the ring for ketamine being developed. Related to ketamine chemically, it’s called esketamine and is in testing. It’s not been considered by the FDA yet, but that’s not far off.
And it’s one of a mountain of medicines in development that are related to ketamine, according to Gerard Sanacora.
He also said, “This is probably the most interesting and exciting new development that I’ve seen in my career, and probably going back over the past 50 to 60 years.”
And that’s certainly the case for me, too. For all of us who are seeing our patients doing better, looking better, and feeling better – after decades in practice.
These are such exciting times in psychiatric medicine. I’m so thrilled to be a part of this life-changing and life – saving historical time. And I’m thrilled you are too.
Until recently, our patients with treatment-resistant mood disorders weren’t getting better.
Now they are.
IV Ketamine is Changing – and Saving – Lives
They’re living again, building fulfilling lives again, looking to the future with HOPE.
If you know someone who’s been lost, sad, full of shame and despair, and just doesn’t seem to get better, there’s new hope now.
Encourage them to call us, or call us yourself for an in-depth evaluation. There is specific lab work we can do that will actually help us know if IV ketamine is likely to work and work quickly. It’s been successful with about 80% of our patients who have received infusions.
IV Ketamine isn’t for everyone, but with appropriate screening, it may be exactly right right for you. It may be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. And if you’re struggling with a treatment-resistant mood disorder, you owe it to yourself to find out.
You can feel better.
Much, much better.
To the release of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.