Esketamine: new hope for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression? A narrative review

Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2020 Jul 23;11:2042098620937899. doi: 10.1177/2042098620937899. eCollection 2020.


This narrative review aims to provide an overview of the current literature on the pharmacology, safety, efficacy and tolerability of intranasal esketamine, the S-enantiomer of ketamine, for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression (TRD). A literature search using Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and Cochrane Central was conducted (January 2000 to July 2019). Product information and were also reviewed. The literature search was limited to human studies published in English. Phase I, II, and III studies of intranasal esketamine for TRD were reviewed. About a third of patients with major depressive disorder fail to achieve remission despite treatment with multiple antidepressants. This article examines the trials that led to the approval of esketamine in the United States, as well as other recent studies of esketamine for TRD. The findings from limited phase III trials illustrate that intranasal esketamine is effective and safe in reducing depressive symptoms and achieving clinical response in patients with TRD. The optimum duration and frequency of use are not fully understood. Although the nasal spray is a convenient dosage form, its use in practice may be limited by cost and administrative regulation. While it may prove beneficial to many patients who suffer from TRD, further long-term data are required, along with comparative trials with the R-isomer (arketamine). In the interim, care and monitoring should be exercised in its use in clinical practice.

Keywords: R-ketamine; S-ketamine; TRD; antidepressant; esketamine; intranasal; major depressive disorder; treatment resistant depression.

Publication types

  • Review