FDA approves new treatment for depression in the form of nasal spray

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - The FDA has approved a new type of treatment for depression. The drug is called "Esketamine" and is used as a nasal spray.

Doctors say it's basically the name-brand version Ketamine. Ketamine is a type of anesthesia, and was once a popular party drug known as "Special K."

The nasal spray, called "Spravato," is the first new FDA approved therapy for depression since Prozac, more than 30 years ago.

It's only for patients who have tried at least two other medications for depression without success, so not every patient can get it.

The main ingredient is just like ketamine, and doctors say it's extremely successful, even for patients on the verge of suicide.

"I had already decided [that] if it didn't work, I already had a plan [that] I was going to kill myself," Tiffany Snow said, who recently sought help for her depression.

Tiffany was diagnosed with depression as a child and tried dozens of antidepressants that didn't work for her. Then she became part of a trail for Ketamine treatment. Almost instantly, she noticed a difference.

"My mood lifted and I was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" Snow said. "I have forgotten what [it] felt like to be that happy."

The new FDA approved drug, Esketamine, is being marketed as "Spravato," a nasal spray. The approval is a huge boost for Ketamine wellness centers, which have been around for several years.

"It happens immediately and then goes away, as if you turned off your computer and you're starting up again," Anesthesiologist Dr. Mark Murphy said. He's administered Ketamine treatments for the past eight years, taking in those who have failed with other antidepressants and are at risk for suicide. Given in low doses through infusions, he says Ketamine is safe and effective.

"I do not believe we have ever had a patient commit suicide that was acutely suicidal that we've treated," Dr. Murphy said.

Dr. Murphy also says the approval of "Spravato" could be revolutionary for those who suffer from depression, and hopes Ketamine treatments become more widespread.

"This saved my life," Snow said. "This is going to save people's lives."

The new treatment is not cheap and is likely not going to be covered by insurance right away.

Johnson & Johnson said the wholesale cost of each Esketamine treatment will range from $590 to $885, depending on the dose.

So, if it's prescribed to be taken twice a week - a month's worth of the drug could cost between $4- to $7,000.