Efficacy and Safety of Intranasal Esketamine Adjunctive to Oral Antidepressant Therapy in Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Importance

Approximately one-third of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not respond to available antidepressants.

Objective

To assess the efficacy, safety, and dose-response of intranasal esketamine hydrochloride in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

Design, Setting, and Participants

This phase 2, double-blind, doubly randomized, delayed-start, placebo-controlled study was conducted in multiple outpatient referral centers from January 28, 2014, to September 25, 2015. The study consisted of 4 phases: (1) screening, (2) double-blind treatment (days 1-15), composed of two 1-week periods, (3) optional open-label treatment (days 15-74), and (4) posttreatment follow-up (8 weeks). One hundred twenty-six adults with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of MDD and history of inadequate response to 2 or more antidepressants (ie, TRD) were screened, 67 were randomized, and 60 completed both double-blind periods. Intent-to-treat analysis was used in evaluation of the findings.

Interventions

In period 1, participants were randomized (3:1:1:1) to placebo (n = 33), esketamine 28 mg (n = 11), 56 mg (n = 11), or 84 mg (n = 12) twice weekly. In period 2, 28 placebo-treated participants with moderate-to-severe symptoms were rerandomized (1:1:1:1) to 1 of the 4 treatment arms; those with mild symptoms continued receiving placebo. Participants continued their existing antidepressant treatment during the study. During the open-label phase, dosing frequency was reduced from twice weekly to weekly, and then to every 2 weeks.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary efficacy end point was change from baseline to day 8 (each period) in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score.

Results

Sixty-seven participants (38 women, mean [SD] age, 44.7 [10.0] years) were included in the efficacy and safety analyses. Change (least squares mean [SE] difference vs placebo) in MADRS total score (both periods combined) in all 3 esketamine groups was superior to placebo (esketamine 28 mg: −4.2 [2.09], P = .02; 56 mg: −6.3 [2.07], P = .001; 84 mg: −9.0 [2.13], P < .001), with a significant ascending dose-response relationship (P < .001). Improvement in depressive symptoms appeared to be sustained (−7.2 [1.84]) despite reduced dosing frequency in the open-label phase. Three of 56 (5%) esketamine-treated participants during the double-blind phase vs none receiving placebo and 1 of 57 participants (2%) during the open-label phase had adverse events that led to study discontinuation (1 event each of syncope, headache, dissociative syndrome, and ectopic pregnancy).

Conclusions and Relevance

In this first clinical study to date of intranasal esketamine for TRD, antidepressant effect was rapid in onset and dose related. Response appeared to persist for more than 2 months with a lower dosing frequency. Results support further investigation in larger trials.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01998958

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