A drug with ketamine-like properties is an effective antidepressant, trial results have shown. Free of ketamine’s side-effects, the drug is named lanicemine. First conceived as an antiepileptic, lanicemine targets the same parts of the brain as does ketamine – the infamous ‘party-drug’.
More than a decade ago, ketamine was put through its own clinical trials. These verified the drug’s ability to suppress depression in patients but its hallucinogenic qualities and other side effects didn’t – and still don’t – make it a viable treatment.
Spearheaded by Yale University’s Gerard Sanacora and pharma firm AstraZeneca’s Mike Quirk, the lanicemine study group enlisted some 150 participating patients. Over a three-week period, some were given a regular dose of lanicemine while the remainder got a placebo, so the antiepileptic’s performance could be viewed in context.
Lanicemine Antidepression Trial
The patients involved were specially-selected: each had at least moderate depression and hadn’t, previously, responded too well to already-approved antidepressants. Prior to the lanicemine antidepression trial’s launch, each patient’s depression was scored on a scale from 0-60.
At the trial’s end, the average depression score for the lanicemine patients had dropped 13.5 points, while that for the placebo patients dropped eight points. As far as side effects were concerned, dizziness was the only one commonly experienced.
Antiepileptic Depression Treatment
Lanicemine might not have taken effect straight away but Sanacora, Quirk and others think that this might be down to the other drugs used by the antiepileptic depression treatment trial’s participants.
“This is a real breakthrough”, University College London psychopharmacologist Valerie Curran explained in comments quoted by the News Scientist. “It’s great that ketamine’s psychotic-like effects were minimal with lanicemine, but disappointing it didn’t show ketamine’s rapid onset.”
The advent of a potential new antidepressant is especially significant when’s it considered that, at least within Western nations, depression is now the number one disability cause. Even more significantly, the present generation of antidepressants are proving ineffective among approximately 30 per cent of patients.