Sex differences in response to ketamine as a rapidly acting intervention for treatment resistant depression

J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Mar;110:166-171. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.01.010. Epub 2019 Jan 8.


Background: While ketamine has been increasingly studied for treatment resistant depression (TRD), the impact of sex differences on treatment outcomes has not been well studied. The objective was to ascertain whether there were differences in response to a single administration of ketamine for TRD between men and women, and between pre- and post-menopausal women.

Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (N = 99; N = 50 male; N = 49 female) was conducted to investigate the efficacy of intravenous ketamine versus active placebo as augmentation of antidepressant therapy for TRD. Patients were assigned to one of five arms; one-time administration of ketamine of varying doses (i.e., 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, and 1.0 mg/kg), and one group receiving active placebo (intravenous midazolam). A priori-planned analyses were conducted to compare responses between women and men, as well pre-vs. postmenopausal women.

Results: Analyses demonstrated no significant differences between women and men in terms of treatment response (F(1,80) = 0.06, p = 0.80). There were no significant differences in the frequency of adverse effects (AEs) reported by those assigned to ketamine treatment groups (p > 0.21 for all AEs reported more than once), although women reported more headaches (12% vs. 6%, p = 0.30) and nausea (10% vs. 6%, p = 0.47). In comparing pre-vs. postmenopausal women, no differences in efficacy were observed (F(1,76) = 0.36, p = 0.55).

Conclusions: Results do not support differential efficacy or tolerability of ketamine for the treatment of TRD between women and men, nor based on menopause status among women. However, larger trials with these a priori aims are needed to confirm these results.

Keywords: Depression; Ketamine; Menopause; Sex differences; Treatment resistant.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause* / drug effects
  • Premenopause* / drug effects
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Ketamine