Ketamine research in depression has mostly used intravenous, weight-based approaches, which are difficult to translate clinically. Intranasal (IN) ketamine is a promising alternative but no controlled data has been published on the feasibility, safety and potential efficacy of repeated IN ketamine treatments.
This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study compared a 4-week course of eight treatments of 100 mg ketamine or 4.5 mg midazolam. Each treatment was given as 10 separate IN sprays, self-administered 5 min apart. The study was stopped early due to poor tolerability after five treatment-resistant depressed participants were included. Feasibility, safety (acute and cumulative), cognitive and efficacy outcomes were assessed. Plasma ketamine and norketamine concentrations were assayed after the first treatment.
Significant acute cardiovascular, psychotomimetic and neurological side effects occurred at doses < 100 mg ketamine. No participants were able to self-administer all 10 ketamine sprays due to incoordination; treatment time occasionally had to be extended (>45 min) due to acute side effects. No hepatic, cognitive or urinary changes were observed after the treatment course in either group. There was an approximately two-fold variation in ketamine and norketamine plasma concentrations between ketamine participants. At course end, one participant had remitted in each of the ketamine and midazolam groups.
IN ketamine, with the drug formulation and delivery device used, was not a useful treatment approach in this study. Absorption was variable between individuals and acute tolerability was poor, requiring prolonged treatment administration time in some individuals. The drug formulation, the delivery device, the insufflation technique and individual patient factors play an important role in tolerability and efficacy when using IN ketamine for TRD.
Gálvez, V., Li, A., Huggins, C., Glue, P., Martin, D., Somogyi, A. A., … & Loo, C. K. (2018). Repeated intranasal ketamine for treatment-resistant depression–the way to go? Results from a pilot randomised controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(4), 397-407. 10.1177/0269881118760660