The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved esketamine, an experimental nasal spray that delivers the active ingredients of the “club drug” ketamine, as a new treatment for severe depression.
The Johnson & Johnson nasal spray is a variation of the anesthetic ketamine — a pain reliever that was widely abused as a street drug, Special K, in the 1980s and 1990s. The newly approved drug by the FDA is the first major depression treatment to reach the U.S. market in decades. It is especially effective in patients who have not benefited from at least two different therapies, also known as treatment-resistant depression, the FDA said.
“There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition,” Dr. Tiffany Farchione, acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Tuesday.