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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Janssen’s novel drug for depression marks a shift in management, although with caution

Health Industry Hub | November 24, 2021 |
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Pharma News: The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson announced the availability of a new option of antidepressant for Australians living with major depressive disorder (MDD) marking a critical shift in the way healthcare professionals can approach the management of this severe and chronic form of depression.

COVID-19 has increased the prevalence of new cases of major depressive disorder (MDD) and depressive symptoms, creating a heightened state of anxiety worldwide.

The availability of this novel medicine follows the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval of SPRAVATO (esketamine hydrochloride) nasal spray, in combination with an oral antidepressant, in adults with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). These are adults with Major Depressive Disorder who have not responded adequately to at least two different antidepressants of adequate dose and duration to treat the current moderate to severe depressive episode.

Administered as a nasal spray, SPRAVATO uses a novel mechanism of action working on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, an ionotropic glutamate receptor in the brain associated with TRD.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) recently recommended prescribing ketamine with ‘caution’, only by those who had a suitable understanding of which patient group benefitted from the treatment and preferably under research conditions with input from a psychiatrist.

Janssen is now working with over 20 centres across Australia to ensure eligible people can access SPRAVATO privately from a range of locations including in some regional areas. As SPRAVATO is a Schedule 8 medicine, to receive it, eligible patients with TRD will be referred to a centre that has been trained for SPRAVATO for administration, supervised by a specialist healthcare professional.

“For people living with treatment resistant depression, the lack of response to existing treatments not only prolongs suffering but reduces their expectations of future treatment success and perpetuates the negative thoughts that are associated with depression,” said Professor Ian Hickie, Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney.

“Until now, antidepressants have focused on the same monoaminergic pathway – with current treatments being lengthy and ineffective for some people with MDD. Some patients cycled through treatments with no resolve, feeling desperate for options that worked for them,” said Prof Hickie. “This is a significant milestone for healthcare professionals who have had limited options and the same treatment pathway for over 30 years.”

“It’s exciting that now, for the first time, we have a new class of treatment that is effective at rapid onset for patients living with treatment-resistant depression. Supported by a robust Phase 3 clinical trial program, we have the potential to change the treatment paradigm and offer another option for those living with this debilitating illness,” added Professor Malcolm Hopwood, Ramsay Health Care at the University of Melbourne and Clinical Director, Professorial Psychiatry Unit at the Albert Road Clinic.

Biljana Naumovic, Managing Director, Janssen Australia and New Zealand, said “Janssen has a strong heritage in helping to reduce the burden, disability and devastation caused by mental illness and are committed to transforming individual lives. We are proud to have introduced the first new class of treatment for MDD in over a decade. We recognise the need for a holistic approach to treatment resistant depression and know medicines are only part of the solution. We are committed to continuing our work, in partnership with Australia’s mental health community, to re-define the course of TRD and transform the mental health space for good.”


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