In the face of a rising rate of suicides among veterans, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has decided to approve the use of a new, expensive drug to treat depression. This is despite concerns among doctors and other experts regarding the effectiveness of the drug. The drug is called Spravato and is manufactured by a division of Johnson & Johnson. The VA has approved the use of the drug, also known as esketamine, by doctors in its more than 1,000 clinics across the nation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Spravato for severe depression in March of 2019. The drug represents a new direction in depression treatment. Spravato is a nasal spray derived from an anesthetic called ketamine. The drug is a departure from the usual antidepressants such as Prozac.
The nasal spray contains esketamine, an active part of the ketamine molecule. It is recommended that it be taken twice a week for four weeks with later boosters as needed. The drug is usually taken in conjunction with more traditional antidepressants. People taking Spravato are monitored in the doctor’s office for two hours after taking the drug due to side effects such as hallucinations.
Issues With the Drug
Experts are not completely convinced of the effectiveness of Spravato in treating severe depression. The development of the drug came after a number of small studies found that generic ketamine provided fast relief to some severely depressed people who failed to respond to other treatments. Doctors believe that, since Spravato is different from generic ketamine, further trials and studies should be conducted.
Generic ketamine has been available for some time and is used by a number of doctors to treat severe depression. It is administered through a number of intravenous doses that cost about $400 per dose. Spravato, on the other hand, costs up to $7,000 for a course of treatment and additional clinic costs due to the monitoring that must take place.
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