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The Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug that can relieve depression in hours instead of weeks.
Esketamine, a chemical cousin of the anesthetic and party drug ketamine, represents the first truly new kind of depression drug since Prozac hit the market in 1988.
The FDA’s decision came Tuesday, less than a month after a panel of experts advising the agency voted overwhelmingly in favor of approval.
“There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Tiffany Farchione, acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a press release about the decision.
“This is potentially a game changer for millions of people,” said Dr. Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “It offers a lot of hope.”
Esketamine works through a mechanism different from those of drugs like Prozac, Charney said. And that is probably why studies show it can often help people with major depressive disorder who haven’t been helped by other drugs.