hit counter

Esketamine Nasal Spray Effective Last Resort for Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD)? (2023 Study)

Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) represents a significant challenge in mental health care, often leaving patients and clinicians in a difficult position after traditional treatments fail.

Recent studies, including a prospective, observational study at a leading medical center, have brought new hope in the form of esketamine, a novel antidepressant.


  • Esketamine’s Mechanism: Esketamine, the S-enantiomer of ketamine, acts as an NMDA receptor antagonist, offering a novel approach to treating depression.
  • Study Findings: A recent study showed that esketamine had a rapid and robust effect in improving symptoms of severe TRD, with a good safety profile.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Comparison: No significant differences were observed in the effectiveness of esketamine between patients who had and had not previously undergone ECT.
  • Future Prospects: Esketamine shows promise, but further research is needed to fully understand its long-term efficacy and optimal use in treatment strategies.

Source: Clinical Psychopharmacology & Neuroscience (2023)

Esketamine & Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD)

Treatment-resistant depression is a form of major depressive disorder (MDD) characterized by an inadequate response to standard antidepressant therapies.

Patients with TRD often endure prolonged suffering, with symptoms persisting despite trying multiple treatments.

This condition complicates treatment strategies and significantly impacts quality of life, increasing the risk of suicide and comorbidities.

Esketamine, a derivative of the anesthetic ketamine, has emerged as a groundbreaking treatment for TRD.

It’s often considered for patients who have not found relief with traditional antidepressants.

Esketamine received FDA approval specifically for TRD, reflecting a growing recognition of its potential in this challenging area of mental health.

Mechanisms & Advantages of Esketamine in Depression

Mechanisms of Action

Esketamine’s antidepressant effect is primarily attributed to its action as an NMDA receptor antagonist.

By blocking these receptors, esketamine affects glutamate transmission, leading to increased synaptic connections in brain areas that regulate mood and emotional response.

This contrasts with traditional antidepressants, which typically target the serotonin or noradrenaline pathways.

(Read: Prolonged Antidepressant Effect of Ketamine via NMDA Receptors via “Trapping” Effect)

Advantages vs. Traditional Antidepressants

Rapid Onset of Action: Esketamine can produce noticeable mood improvements within hours or days, unlike traditional antidepressants that may take weeks.

Effectiveness in TRD: Esketamine has shown efficacy in patients who have not responded to other treatments, filling a significant gap in depression care.

Neuroplasticity: By promoting synaptogenesis, esketamine may contribute to longer-term improvements in brain function, beyond the immediate mood lift.

Esketamine Nasal Spray for Depression (How It’s Used Safely)

Esketamine is administered as a nasal spray, typically in a clinical setting under medical supervision.

It’s used in conjunction with an oral antidepressant for the best results.


  • Medical Supervision: Due to its potent effects and potential side effects, esketamine should be administered under the close supervision of a healthcare professional.
  • Monitoring: Blood pressure and psychological state should be monitored before and after administration, as esketamine can cause transient increases in blood pressure and dissociative symptoms.
  • Post-Administration Care: Patients should not drive or operate heavy machinery on the day of treatment and should have someone to accompany them home.

Managing Side Effects

Common side effects include dissociation, dizziness, nausea, and an increase in blood pressure.

These are usually transient and can be managed with supportive care.

Long-term side effects and the potential for abuse require ongoing evaluation and caution in prescribing and administering esketamine.

Esketamine Nasal Spray for Treatment-Resistant Depression (2023 Study)

Vendrell-Serres et al. assessed the effectiveness and tolerability of esketamine in patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

These were individuals who had not responded to traditional antidepressant treatments and had exhausted available options.

A secondary aim was to investigate any potential relationship between the effectiveness of esketamine and previous use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).


The study was a prospective, observational study, involving 16 subjects diagnosed with TRD.

Participants were selected based on strict inclusion criteria, including failure to respond to at least two oral antidepressants and one non-pharmacological strategy like ECT.

Esketamine was administered prior to its marketing authorization, under an expanded use program.

The dosage ranged from 28 to 84 mg, tailored based on individual response and tolerability.

The effectiveness of the treatment was evaluated using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), with follow-ups extending up to four months post-administration.


  • Efficacy: Esketamine demonstrated a rapid and robust effect in reducing depressive symptoms. 10 out of 16 patients showed a significant response, with more than 50% change in baseline MADRS scores.
  • Remission: Five patients achieved remission, defined as scoring less than 12 points on the global MADRS score.
  • ECT Comparison: No significant differences were noted in the response to esketamine between patients with or without prior ECT treatment.
  • Safety and Tolerability: Esketamine was generally well-tolerated. Some patients experienced mild to moderate side effects, but these did not necessitate treatment discontinuation.


The study, while insightful, had certain limitations that must be considered.

  • Sample Size: With only 16 participants, the study had a small sample size. This limits the generalizability of the findings and the ability to detect more subtle effects or differences between subgroups.
  • Lack of Control Group: The observational nature of the study meant there was no control group for comparison. This makes it challenging to definitively attribute the observed improvements solely to esketamine.
  • Short Follow-Up Period: The four-month follow-up period provides limited insight into the long-term efficacy and safety of esketamine.
  • Potential Bias: Given the study’s design and the lack of blinding, there is a risk of bias in the reporting and interpretation of results.

Details of Results: Esketamine for Patients with Resistant Depression (2023)

The study on esketamine’s efficacy in treating treatment-resistant depression (TRD) presents several key results that are worth highlighting.

  • Rapid Onset of Action: One of the most striking findings was the rapid improvement in depressive symptoms, noticeable as early as 48 hours after the first administration. This is particularly significant given the chronic nature of TRD and the typically slow response to conventional antidepressants.
  • High Response Rate: Over 60% of the participants experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (> 50% change in baseline MADRS scores). This high response rate is noteworthy in a population that had previously not responded to multiple treatments, including oral antidepressants and, in some cases, ECT.
  • Achievement of Remission: Approximately 31% of the patients achieved remission, as indicated by MADRS scores falling below 12. This suggests that esketamine can not only reduce symptoms but also potentially bring a substantial number of patients into remission, a critical goal in depression treatment.
  • No ECT Correlation: The study found no significant differences in esketamine’s effectiveness between patients with or without a history of ECT. This suggests that esketamine’s mechanism of action and therapeutic effects are distinct and beneficial regardless of previous ECT treatment.
  • Safety & Tolerability: The side effects reported were mostly mild to moderate and included dissociation and transient increases in blood pressure. These were manageable and did not lead to treatment discontinuation, highlighting esketamine’s tolerability.

Potential Implications of the Study (Esketamine in TRD)

The study’s findings on esketamine hold several important implications for the treatment of TRD.

  • New Treatment Option: Esketamine could represent a new line of treatment for patients with TRD, particularly those who have not responded to conventional therapies.
  • Rapid Intervention: The rapid onset of esketamine’s effects could be crucial in acute cases of severe depression, where quick symptom relief is essential.
  • Alternative to ECT: Given its comparable efficacy to ECT without the need for anesthesia and with fewer cognitive side effects, esketamine could become an alternative for patients who are either ineligible for or unwilling to undergo ECT.
  • Tailoring Treatment Approaches: Understanding esketamine’s mechanism and its effectiveness could lead to more personalized treatment strategies for TRD, especially in cases with a history of multiple treatment failures.
  • Influence on Future Research: These findings could spur further research into NMDA receptor antagonists and other novel treatments for depression, potentially revolutionizing the pharmacological approach to mental health disorders.

Takeaway: Esketamine for Refractory Depression

The study on esketamine offers compelling evidence for its efficacy and safety in treating treatment-resistant depression, marking a significant step forward in psychiatric care.

With its rapid onset of action, high response rate, and good tolerability, esketamine emerges as a promising treatment for patients who have historically had limited options.

While these findings are groundbreaking, they also underscore the need for further research to fully understand esketamine’s long-term efficacy and optimal clinical application.

This study not only broadens our understanding of TRD treatment but also opens new avenues for future research and potential therapies in mental health.


Related Posts:

MHD News (100% Free)

* indicates required

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.