MONDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A single infusion of the anesthetic ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, can relieve the symptoms of treatment-resistant, major depression within two hours and the effect may last up to a week, according to the results of a randomized study published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Carlos A. Zarate Jr., M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues randomly assigned 18 patients with treatment-resistant depression to receive two infusions one week apart including 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of ketamine or 50 milliliters of pure saline.
Depressed patients who received ketamine showed significant improvements within 110 minutes after the infusion and the effect lasted through the following week. One day later, 71 percent of the patients who received ketamine met the criteria for treatment response and 29 percent met the criteria for remission. In 35 percent of ketamine-treated patients, the effects lasted through the week.
By specifically targeting the NMDA receptor, ketamine may bring about these positive changes, the authors write. While the new results may not be generalizable to all depressed populations, "to our knowledge, there has never been a report of any other drug or somatic treatment…that results in such a dramatic rapid and prolonged response with a single administration," the study authors conclude.
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