Pharmacorp Johnson and Johnson has announced its intention to seek FDA approval for ketamine’s more active (S)-enantiomer, aka esketamine.
Currently available from Pfizer for medical use (under the brand Ketanest-S), the isomer has also been manufactured in Germany since c.1994 by Parke-Davis. Academic studies of the substance as a treatment for patients suffering with depression “who have failed to benefit from standard medications”, have shown esketamine, introduced into the body via intranasal spray, produces rapid easing of symptoms in these patients, including a reduction in suicidal thoughts.
Yale University researchers have previously described ketamine as “the biggest breakthrough against depression in the past half century”, positing that it could help rejuvenate synapses that have been damaged by stress and depression. Indeed, ketamine has shown a startling usefulness for researchers and patients, many of whom react rapidly to the drug where multiple other, more traditional, treatments have failed.
The head of neuroscience at Johnson and Johnson has described the studies at Yale as remarkable, hiring several ketamine researchers for J and J’s project (which it is currently testing at “mid-stage” trials). The company believes esketamine will prove very useful to suicidal depressives particularly, as it takes effect so rapidly (hours instead of the weeks and months required for standard anti-psychotics to take effect). Yale researchers have cautioned that ketamine (whatever isomer thereof) can cause short-term psychosis if ingested in large doses, but then everyone knows that by now!
What is interesting to me is that esketamine is simply the (S)-enantiomer of ketamine, and as such is the same substance often referred to as ‘K50’, ‘old skool k’, or ‘Indian’ by experienced recreational users. This means that, unlike the low grade ‘British’ or ‘Chinese’ crystal k found in large amounts on the illicit market, the hitherto rarer S isomer of the drug may soon become more commonly available, initially via prescription but logically soon appearing increasingly on the grey and black markets…