On Tuesday, the Food & Drug Administration announced their approval of Esketamine (under the brand name Spravato) for treatment of depression.

The drug, developed by Johnson & Johnson, is a close analogue of ketamine, the anesthetic better known as the club drug “Special K.”

Approved just half a year after Johnson & Johnson submitted Spravato for approval, the FDA had fast-tracked approval following several clinical tests that showed remarkable abilities for small doses of ketamine to treat suicidal patients:

Research into the potential therapeutic effects of Ketamine began in the mid-1990s. Within a few hours, patients (who were given a microdose compared to common street usage) reported a feeling of wellness. The instantaneous results surprised the researchers – most anti-depressants take weeks if not months to show any effects.


Spravato has been described as the “first fast-acting” medication of its kind.

Unlike recreational use of ketamine, Spravato will be delivered via a nasal spray under extremely close observation. Restrictions for therapeutic use of Spravato require Spravato to be administered in the provider’s office, with constant monitoring on-site for at least two hours after first use.

Some existing Ketamine treatment centers have showed some skepticism of Big Pharma’s interest in the therapeutic benefits of ketamine treatment. Treatment in any case is expensive; in the case of Spravato it will cost in the range of thousands of dollars per month.

Two Big Pharma rivals – Sage Therapeutics Inc. and Allergan PLC – are developing “rival fast-acting medicines that they hope will prove superior,” according to an op-ed by Bloomberg.


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