DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Today in Your Health - some promising new medical treatments. We begin with an update on treating depression that involves a club drug known as Special K. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports.
JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: Special K is the street name for an anesthetic called ketamine. In high doses, it can produce out-of-body experiences. More than a decade ago, researchers realized ketamine had another effect - it could relieve major depression within an hour or two. Gerard Sanacora, who directs the Yale Depression Research Program, says that was a revelation.
GERARD SANACORA: This had the potential to truly change the way we're treating depression. Both in the fact that it has a very rapid onset of effect and also in the fact that it seemed to be working in patients where the standard antidepressants had failed to produce much benefit.
HAMILTON: But Sanacora says ketamine, itself, has some drawbacks.
SANACORA: Ketamine is a known drug of abuse. It's also a drug that has some fairly significant effects on blood pressure and heart rate.
HAMILTON: So drug companies are testing similar compounds with fewer side effects. Two of the most promising are called esketamine and rapastinel. Each is headed for the final stage of testing before consideration by the Food and Drug Administration. Sanacora, who consults for the makers of both drugs, says he's optimistic.
SANACORA: Some version of one of these drugs is likely to make it to the clinical market within a relatively short period of time.
HAMILTON: Johnson & Johnson, which makes esketamine, plans to seek FDA approval in 2018. The company says potential sales could exceed $1 billion a year. Jon Hamilton, NPR News.
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