Trial of new spray to treat depression

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A new antidepressant nasal spray is being trialled to help the many Australians who do not respond to oral medication.

Ramsay Clinic Albert Road in Melbourne is funding the treatment, which was first approved in the United States in 2019 and in this country in 2021.

The mental health facility, part of the Ramsay Health Care group, enrolled the first patient in Australia to the clinical trial.

“We hope for this treatment to become an additional wide-stream option for cases of hard-to-treat depression,” said National Lead Investigator Professor Malcolm Hopwood, also Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Road. 

Produced by Janssen-Cilag, the spray Spravato – a different form of the anaesthetic ketamine – blocks a glutamate receptor in the brain to produce a rapid, sustained mood-improving response. 

It is being offered in combination with an oral antidepressant at select trained sites throughout Australia.

“This trial represents a great opportunity for Albert Road Clinic to offer such a novel therapy for patients,” Prof Hopwood said. 

“Spravato is the only approved inhibitor of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor for treatment-resistant depression in Australia.”

About five million Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, and one in three of those living with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) try multiple antidepressant treatments without relief.

Prof Hopwood said the trial aimed to understand the effect on severely-depressed patients of the spray, which is not funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

“This means it’s out of reach for many patients,” Prof Hopwood said. 

“Albert Road Clinic is funding the service, which involves nurse supervision in an outpatient clinic.” 

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