A randomized, double-blind, active placebo-controlled study of efficacy, safety, and durability of repeated vs single subanesthetic ketamine for treatment-resistant depression

Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Jun 26;10(1):206. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-00897-0.


The strategy of repeated ketamine in open-label and saline-control studies of treatment-resistant depression suggested greater antidepressant response beyond a single ketamine. However, consensus guideline stated the lack of evidence to support frequent ketamine administration. We compared the efficacy and safety of single vs. six repeated ketamine using midazolam as active placebo. Subjects received either six ketamine or five midazolam followed by a single ketamine during 12 days followed by up to 6-month post-treatment period. The primary end point was the change from baseline in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score at 24 h after the last infusion. Fifty-four subjects completed all six infusions. For the primary outcome measure, there was no significant difference in change of MADRS scores between six ketamine group and single ketamine group at 24 h post-last infusion. Repeated ketamine showed greater antidepressant efficacy compared to midazolam after five infusions before receiving single ketamine infusion. Remission and response favored the six ketamine after infusion 4 and 5, respectively, compared to midazolam before receiving single ketamine infusion. For those who responded, the median time-to-relapse was nominally but not statistically different (2 and 6 weeks for the single and six ketamine group, respectively). Repeated infusions were relatively well-tolerated. Repeated ketamine showed greater antidepressant efficacy to midazolam after five infusions but fell short of significance when compared to add-on single ketamine to midazolam at the end of 2 weeks. Increasing knowledge on the mechanism of ketamine should drive future studies on the optimal balance of dosing ketamine for maximum antidepressant efficacy with minimum exposure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant* / drug therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Ketamine* / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Ketamine