Prior trials suggest that intravenous racemic ketamine is a highly effective for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), but phase 3 trials of racemic ketamine are needed.
To assess the acute efficacy and safety of a 4-week course of subcutaneous racemic ketamine in participants with TRD. Trial registration: ACTRN12616001096448 at www.anzctr.org.au.
This phase 3, double-blind, randomised, active-controlled multicentre trial was conducted at seven mood disorders centres in Australia and New Zealand. Participants received twice-weekly subcutaneous racemic ketamine or midazolam for 4 weeks. Initially, the trial tested fixed-dose ketamine 0.5 mg/kg versus midazolam 0.025 mg/kg (cohort 1). Dosing was revised, after a Data Safety Monitoring Board recommendation, to flexible-dose ketamine 0.5–0.9 mg/kg or midazolam 0.025–0.045 mg/kg, with response-guided dosing increments (cohort 2). The primary outcome was remission (Montgomery-Åsberg Rating Scale for Depression score ≤10) at the end of week 4.
The final analysis (those who received at least one treatment) comprised 68 in cohort 1 (fixed-dose), 106 in cohort 2 (flexible-dose). Ketamine was more efficacious than midazolam in cohort 2 (remission rate 19.6% v. 2.0%; OR = 12.1, 95% CI 2.1–69.2, P = 0.005), but not different in cohort 1 (remission rate 6.3% v. 8.8%; OR = 1.3, 95% CI 0.2–8.2, P = 0.76). Ketamine was well tolerated. Acute adverse effects (psychotomimetic, blood pressure increases) resolved within 2 h.
Adequately dosed subcutaneous racemic ketamine was efficacious and safe in treating TRD over a 4-week treatment period. The subcutaneous route is practical and feasible.