Objective: Preliminary evidence supports the safety and efficacy of subanesthetic ketamine as an experimental antidepressant, although its effects are often not sustained beyond one week. Studies are lacking that have examined the sustained effects of escalating ketamine doses as augmentation in outpatients with treatment-resistant depression. Therefore, the aims of this study were twofold: (1) to assess the safety and antidepressant efficacy of two-step, repeated-dose ketamine augmentation and (2) to assess the duration of ketamine's antidepressant efficacy as augmentation to ongoing antidepressant pharmacotherapy for 3 months after the final infusion.
Methods: Fourteen patients with treatment-resistant depression were eligible to receive augmentation with six open-label intravenous ketamine infusions over 3 weeks. For the first three infusions, ketamine was administered at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg over 45 minutes; the dose was increased to 0.75 mg/kg over 45 minutes for the subsequent three infusions. The primary outcome measure was response (as measured on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale-28 items).
Results: After the completion of three ketamine infusions, 7.1% (1/14) responded; after all six ketamine infusions, 41.7% (5/12) completers responded and 16.7% (2/12) remitted. Intent-to-treat response and remission rates at the end of the final infusion were 35.7% (5/14) and 14.3% (2/14), respectively. However, all but one responder relapsed within 2 weeks after the final infusion.
Conclusion: Repeated, escalating doses of intravenous ketamine augmentation were preliminarily found to be feasible, efficacious and well tolerated. Interaction with concomitant medications and elevated level of treatment resistance are possible factors for non-response.
Keywords: Major depressive disorder; antidepressant; depression; ketamine; treatment-resistant.