JOURNAL ARTICLE

Rapid and Sustained Reductions in Current Suicidal Ideation Following Repeated Doses of Intravenous Ketamine: Secondary Analysis of an Open-Label Study

Dawn F Ionescu, Michaela B Swee, Kara J Pavone, Norman Taylor, Oluwaseun Akeju, Lee Baer, Maren Nyer, Paolo Cassano, David Mischoulon, Jonathan E Alpert, Emery N Brown, Matthew K Nock, Maurizio Fava, Cristina Cusin
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2016, 77 (6): e719-25
27232360

BACKGROUND: Ketamine rapidly reduces thoughts of suicide in patients with treatment-resistant depression who are at low risk for suicide. However, the extent to which ketamine reduces thoughts of suicide in depressed patients with current suicidal ideation remains unknown.

METHODS: Between April 2012 and October 2013, 14 outpatients with DSM-IV-diagnosed major depressive disorder were recruited for the presence of current, stable (≥ 3 months) suicidal thoughts. They received open-label ketamine infusions over 3 weeks (0.5 mg/kg over 45 minutes for the first 3 infusions; 0.75 mg/kg over 45 minutes for the last 3). In this secondary analysis, the primary outcome measures of suicidal ideation (Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale [C-SSRS] and the Suicide Item of the 28-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale [HDRS₂₈-SI]) were assessed at 240 minutes postinfusion and for 3 months thereafter in a naturalistic follow-up.

RESULTS: Over the course of the infusions (acute treatment phase), 7 of 14 patients (50%) showed remission of suicidal ideation on the C-SSRS Ideation scale (even among patients whose depression did not remit). There was a significant linear decrease in this score over time (P < .001), which approached significance even after controlling for severity of 6-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS₆) core depression items (P = .05). Similarly, there were significant decreases in the C-SSRS Intensity (P < .01) and HDRS₂₈-SI (P < .001) scores during the acute treatment phase. Two of the 7 patients who achieved remission during the acute treatment phase (29%) maintained their remission throughout a 3-month naturalistic follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: In this preliminary study, repeated doses of open-label ketamine rapidly and robustly decreased suicidal ideation in pharmacologically treated outpatients with treatment-resistant depression with stable suicidal thoughts; this decrease was maintained for at least 3 months following the final ketamine infusion in 2 patients.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01582945.

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