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Efficacy and safety of intranasal esketamine for the treatment of major depressive disorder

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Published:1st Jan 2020
Author: Kryst J, Kawalec P, Pilc A.
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Ref.:Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2020;21(1):9-20.
Efficacy and safety of intranasal esketamine for the treatment of major depressive disorder

In March 2019, intranasal esketamine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in adults. This review presents the results of clinical trials underlying the FDA approval of intranasal esketamine.

Areas covered: Esketamine’s efficacy and safety in TRD were assessed in 5 phase III studies: three 4-week, placebo-controlled studies, and two long-term trials. One short-term trial showed statistically significant antidepressant effects of esketamine vs placebo, while a long-term withdrawal study showed that esketamine is significantly beneficial in terms of extending time to relapse, compared to placebo. Two other short-term trials did not meet the prespecified statistical tests for showing efficacy, although improvement in depressive symptoms from baseline to the end of week 4 favors esketamine over placebo.

Expert opinion: Intranasal esketamine is a new treatment option for people with TRD. The main benefit of esketamine is rapid onset of antidepressant activity, but the effects of prolonged treatment are still preliminary. The main concerns relate to the safety aspects of prolonged esketamine therapy, when considering its abuse potential. While data for esketamine use over a long period of time is lacking, its use should be carefully monitored.

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