Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fast-Acting Antidepressant May Spark Treatment Advances

A fast-acting antidepressant would be a helpful addition to the psychiatrist’s tool chest. Most antidepressant medications take weeks before their full effects kick in, leaving patients vulnerable in the interim. Now researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have replicated the rapid antidepressant effects of an injectable anesthetic known as ketamine in patients with bipolar disorder. The results are reported in the June 1 Biological Psychiatry.

Patients in the trial received either two doses of ketamine, two weeks apart, or a placebo. About 79 percent of patients with ketamine improved within 40 minutes, compared with none of the patients on placebo. The effect of the ketamine lasted for three days and also reduced suicidal thoughts.

“Our finding that a single infusion of ketamine produces rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects within one hour--and they are fairly sustained--is truly exciting,” said lead author Carlos Zarate, M.D., of NIMH, in a statement. The study “offers an avenue for developing the next generation of treatments for depression that are radically different from existing ones.”

For an earlier report in Psychiatric News on Zarate’s work, click here.
(Image: Elnur/


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