FDA approves new drug for treament resistant depression

March 27, 2019
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On March 5th the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new nasal spray treatment called Spravato (esketamine) in conjunction with an oral antidepressant, for the treatment of depression in adults who have tried other antidepressant medicines but have not benefited from them (treatment-resistant depression).

Patients with a major depressive disorder who, despite trying at least two antidepressant treatments given at adequate doses for an adequate duration in the current episode, have not responded to treatment are considered to have treatment-resistant depression.

“There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition,” said Tiffany Farchione, M.D., acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important to our decision to approve this treatment.  (US FDA, March 5, 2019 FDA approves new nasal spray medication for treatment-resistant depression; available only at a certified doctor’s office or clinic , FDA News Release).

In a four week clinical trial the Spravato nasal spray demonstrated statistically significant effects compared to placebo on the severity of depression, and some effect was seen within two days. In a longer term clinical trial designed to measure maintenance-of-effect, patients in stable remission or with stable response who continued treatment with Spravato plus an oral antidepressant experienced a statistically significantly longer time to relapse of depressive symptoms than patients on placebo nasal spray plus an oral antidepressant.

Spravato , or eskatmine, was evaluated and tested under the FDA’s Fast Track process designed to facilitate the development, and expedite the review of drugs to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need. The purpose is to get important new drugs to the patient earlier. The treatment was also classified and tested as a Breakthrough Therapy , a designation designed to expedite the development and review of drugs that are intended to treat a serious condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy on a clinically significant endpoint(s).

Because of the risk of serious adverse outcomes resulting from sedation and dissociation caused by Spravato administration, and the potential for abuse and misuse of the drug, it is only available through a restricted distribution system. The patient self-administers Spravato nasal spray under the supervision of a health care provider in a certified doctor’s office or clinic, and the spray cannot be taken home. The health care provider will instruct the patient on how to operate the nasal spray device. During and after each use of the nasal spray device, the health care provider will check the patient and determine when the patient is ready to leave.

The Spravato labeling contains a warning that patients are at risk for sedation and difficulty with attention, judgment and thinking (dissociation), abuse and misuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors after administration of the drug. Because of the risk of sedation and dissociation, patients must be monitored by a health care provider for at least two hours after receiving their Spravato dose. The doctor and the patient both must sign a Patient Enrollment Form that clearly states that the patient understands they should make arrangements to safely leave the health care setting to get home and that the patient should not drive or use heavy machinery for the rest of the day on which they received the drug. Additionally, Spravato must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that outlines the drug’s uses and risks.

If you would like more information about this new treatment for depression that has not responded to other medications send us a email through our contact form or call our office 409.291.7622.

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