Oral esketamine in patients with treatment-resistant depression: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with open-label extension

Sanne Y Smith-Apeldoorn*, Jolien K E Veraart, Jeanine Kamphuis, Jan Spijker, Annemarie van der Meij, Antoinette D I van Asselt, Marije aan het Rot, Robert A Schoevers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

About one-third of patients with depression do not achieve adequate response to current treatment options. Although intravenous and intranasal administrations of (es)ketamine have shown antidepressant properties, their accessibility and scalability are limited. We investigated the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of generic oral esketamine in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in a randomized placebo-controlled trial with open-label extension. This study consisted of 1) a six-week fixed low-dose treatment phase during which 111 participants received oral esketamine 30 mg or placebo three times a day; 2) a four-week wash-out phase; and 3) an optional six-week open-label individually titrated treatment phase during which participants received 0.5 to 3.0 mg/kg oral esketamine two times a week. The primary outcome measure was change in depressive symptom severity, assessed with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS 17), from baseline to 6 weeks. Fixed low-dose oral esketamine when compared to placebo had no benefit on the HDRS 17 total score (p = 0.626). Except for dizziness and sleep hallucinations scores, which were higher in the esketamine arm, we found no significant difference in safety and tolerability aspects. During the open-label individually titrated treatment phase, the mean HDRS 17 score decreased from 21.0 (SD 5.09) to 15.1 (SD 7.27) (mean difference -6.0, 95% CI -7.71 to -4.29, p < 0.001). Our results suggest that fixed low-dose esketamine is not effective in TRD. In contrast, individually titrated higher doses of oral esketamine might have antidepressant properties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25-Mar-2024

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