Scientists find a new drug for treatment-resistant depression

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A groundbreaking clinical trial has revealed that esketamine, a form of ketamine, outperforms quetiapine, a standard treatment, for those suffering from treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD).

This significant discovery was first presented at the 36th ECNP Congress in Barcelona and reported in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

The Challenge of Treatment-Resistant Depression

Clinical depression, or MDD, affects a considerable number of people globally, creating substantial life challenges and escalating healthcare costs.

In 2019, Eurostat reported that 7% of the EU adult population suffered from depression, with about 20-30% of these cases being treatment-resistant. This condition becomes even more prevalent among hospitalized MDD patients.

Quetiapine, an antipsychotic drug, is commonly used alongside antidepressants for treating this condition. However, esketamine nasal spray, approved in Europe in 2019, is the only therapy specifically indicated for treatment-resistant depression.

The ESCAPE-TRD Study: Esketamine vs Quetiapine

Funded by Janssen EMEA, the ESCAPE-TRD trial compared esketamine nasal spray with quetiapine, involving 171 sites across 24 countries. This large-scale study enrolled patients aged 18 to 74, all of whom had treatment-resistant depression, despite trying various antidepressants.

Participants were divided into two groups, with 336 receiving esketamine plus an antidepressant (SSRI/SNRI), and 340 receiving quetiapine plus an antidepressant. Treatment lasted for eight weeks, followed by 24 weeks of maintenance.

Key Findings and Implications

Higher Remission Rates with Esketamine: After eight weeks, 28% of patients on esketamine achieved remission, compared to 18% on quetiapine. By week 32, 22% of those on esketamine remained in remission, against 14% on quetiapine.

Long-Term Benefits: Esketamine patients showed fewer depressive symptoms over time and a higher likelihood of remaining symptom-free.

By the end of the trial, nearly half of the esketamine group were in remission, and two-thirds responded positively to the treatment.

Expert Insights: Dr. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga noted the superior response and safety profile of esketamine, highlighting it as a promising new treatment option for those with treatment-resistant depression.

In summary, the ESCAPE-TRD trial marks a significant advancement in the treatment of treatment-resistant depression.

Esketamine has emerged as a more effective alternative to quetiapine, offering new hope to those struggling with this challenging condition.

This study paves the way for more effective and safer treatment strategies, potentially transforming the lives of millions affected by treatment-resistant depression.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

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