While the UK medical community looks to ketamine therapy as a radical new way to treat severe depression, many worry the government will be slow to act.
In 2014, spurred on by research taking place in the US, NHS consultant psychiatrist Rupert McShane headed up the first UK study (Diamond et al., 2014) on the drug as a treatment for depression.
“The results of the study were the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile—it reminded me a bit of the film Awakenings . . . We had one patient who was very sick, had ketamine, and got sufficiently well that they were able to write a really complicated, competitive grant application. They then won that grant,” says McShane.
Study: Ketamine is a Promising New Antidepressant
“The evidence all points in one direction,” says the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s spokesperson on mental health, David Taylor.
People who have depression seem to have their condition substantially improved within an hour or two within receiving intravenous ketamine, and there are no other drugs that are comparable in having that effect,” Taylor went on to say.
UK Notorious for Slow Drug Approval Process
Taylor says the main reason ketamine hasn’t been approved to treat depression is because it’s a “very long process”; you’ve got to convince regulatory authorities that it’s safe and fit for purpose. Currently, the UK is one of the countries with the slowest uptake of new drugs in western Europe.