The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 22, 2013

Potential rescue drug for depression takes a step forward

WASHINGTON — For years, physicians have been inching their way to a better understanding of how — and how well — the drug ketamine, a “twilight drug” used to sedate some patients before a painful procedure, can lift someone with severe depression almost immediately from the abyss.

A new study, presented in San Francisco this week at the American Psychiatric Association’s yearly meeting, shows that ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effect is no incidental effect of sedation: It’s real, and it lasts — albeit with diminishing effects — for at least a week.

Ketamine, which is also a drug used recreationally to achieve a sort of “out of body” high, “is not at all ready for prime time,” said Dr. James Murrough, an associate professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. But it is approved for use in anesthesia, so it’s available legally. And years of small and preliminary trials have offered tantalizing evidence of its powerful and fast-acting antidepressant effect on patients whose depression has failed to yield to other treatments.

The result, said Murrough, is that some physicians appear to be using it already in patients.

“That reflects desperation out there” for antidepressant medicine that does not take between four and six weeks to take effect, as is the case for many patients with the most widely used class of antidepressants, the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs. But the fact that ketamine is already being used off-label makes good clinical research on its safety and effectiveness a matter of urgency, said Murrough.

Ketamine is only one of many drugs of abuse getting a closer look these days for their therapeutic potential. Ecstasy, LSD and other abused drugs are being studied as legitimate treatments.

At Icahn School of Medicine’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, researchers recruited 72 people whose major depressive disorder persisted despite trials of two or more antidepressants. Half of their subjects were given a single, 40-minute infusion of ketamine at a much lower dose than is used in anesthesia. The other half got a 40-minute infusion of another sedative, midazolam, which is not known to have an antidepressant effect.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Ellison urges Minn. to aid Central American minors ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota congressman is leading efforts to bring more unaccompanied children fleeing Central America to the state. But, immigration advocates and nonprofit groups that serve refugees are concerned Minnesota might not be abl

    July 22, 2014

  • Detroit retirees back pension cuts by a landslide DETROIT (AP) — A year after filing for bankruptcy, Detroit is building momentum to get out, especially after workers and retirees voted in favor of major pension changes just a few weeks before a judge holds a crucial trial that could end the largest

    July 22, 2014

  • Closings set in Ventura's suit over sniper's book ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Closing arguments are set in former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's defamation lawsuit against the estate of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle. The case is expected to go to the federal jury in St. Paul after lawyers for both

    July 22, 2014

  • American Jews, other 'lone soldiers' serve Israel The two Americans killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip followed in the footsteps of scores of Jews from around the world who have volunteered to fight for Israel. Israel calls them the lone soldiers: They are men and women in the prime of their live

    July 22, 2014

  • 9 TC Rainbow stores to close Supermarkets to lose in Cottage Grove, Shoreview, Inver Grove Heights, Apple Valley, Blaine, Bloomington, Coon Rapids, Maple Grove and Savage

    July 21, 2014

  • Accelerants fuel fire; 2 rescued ST. PAUL — Two brothers were rescued from the upper floor of a St. Paul duplex in a fire that was fueled by cylinders of gas, oxygen and other accelerants. Authorities say the two were taken to Regions Hospital where one man is in critical condition

    July 21, 2014

  • Monticello doctor dies in cycle crash Patients among those mourning Dr. Eric Lefebvre's death

    July 21, 2014

  • Precautions urged for excessive heat, humidity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Health officials are urging Minnesotans to take precautions in dealing with high temperatures and humidity. The National Weather Service says the humidity will make temperatures feel like 100 to 110 degrees Monday across much of M

    July 21, 2014

  • NASA names building for moonwalker Neil Armstrong NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon when the Apollo 11 mission landed there 45 years

    July 21, 2014

  • Minnesota man loses relatives in airliner crash Drew Ryder of Willmar says victims included his brother, sister-in-law

    July 21, 2014