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Tue May 14, 2019, 02:50 AM

J&J's new esketamine drug for depression, Spravato, not worth the money or the risk, watchdog says


A novel antidepressant, heralded as a breakthrough drug only two months ago, may not be a cost-effective way of battling treatment-resistant depression (TRD), according to a new study.

Esketamine, a nasal spray, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March for people who do not respond to traditional antidepressants. Marketed as Spravato, the drug was subject to eight years of research by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The drug is a chemical cousin of ketamine, a relatively inexpensive anesthetic that has been prescribed by some psychiatrists as an alternative treatment for intractable depression for several years. The cost of a ketamine infusion is usually not covered by most insurance companies and can run up to $800.

Ketamine often is abused as a hallucinogenic party drug, which hints at why esketamine must be administered in a doctor’s office.

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