Nasal Spray Offers Hope For Severely Depressed Patients – Connecticut Consumer Advocate Protector Watchdog | Ct Consumer Complaints |Ct consumer Prote…August 14, 2019
By Peggy McCarthy
Some Connecticut hospitals and doctors and a clinic are starting to
treat severely depressed patients with a new nasal spray called Spravato, touted as the most significant federally approved depression medication since Prozac was approved in 1987.
Spravato, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval
in March, has raised hopes for preventing suicides and relieving
depression after other treatments have failed. But there are concerns
about possible side effects, including drug abuse, elevated blood
pressure and heart rate, sedation, and hypersensitivity to surroundings.
The nasal spray is prescribed for treatment-resistant depression
after at least two other antidepressants haven’t worked and is given
with an oral antidepressant. It is only administered in restrictive
clinical settings to reduce potential for abuse and side effects.
Nationally, of the 17.3 million adults with depression, one-third are treatment-resistant, increasing their risk of suicide.
Yale New Haven Hospital, the Institute of Living, UConn Health John Dempsey Hospital, Wheeler Clinic, VA Connecticut Healthcare, and Dr. Lori Calabrese
in South Windsor report that they have either started or are planning
to offer the fast-acting medication whose chemical name is esketamine.
It is designed to show results in hours and days compared to the weeks
and months it takes for traditional antidepressants to work.
Dr. Jayesh Kamath,
director of the mood and anxiety disorders program at UConn Health, has
conducted esketamine studies for Janssen, its manufacturer. “I want to
make sure people hear the positives and the negatives of this
medication,” he said.
Spravato, a nasal spray, is prescribed for treatment-resistant depression.
While he said that “it is changing how we treat depression” and shows
promise for enabling severely depressed people to function, he added
that “the results are concerning about side effects.”
Janssen, a Johnson &
Johnson subsidiary, is charging $590 to $885 for the medicine, depending
on dosage. This does not include costs charged by providers for
administering it. Veterans who receive it at the VA will not be charged.
Medicaid and Husky will cover it, according to the state Department of
A Janssen spokesperson said insurance companies are starting to cover it and Janssen is providing help, such as co-pay coupons.
Janssen refused to provide a list of Spravato-certified treatment
centers and applicants in Connecticut but said that nationally about
1,600 sites have been certified. Restrictions imposed on Spravato sites
include: prohibiting it from being sent home with patients; requiring
patients to remain at the site for at least two hours and not drive for
another day; and specifications for dosages, screening and monitoring
patients, and labeling and handling of the medication.
Dr. Michael Twist, Wheeler Clinic’s