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Amid Concerns Over Mental Health, J&J's Nasal Spray Approved as Anti-depressant for 'People with Suicidal Thoughts'

Representative Image.(REUTERS)

Representative Image.(REUTERS)

From depression to anxiety to seeking counsellors, internet has been flooded with discussion on mental health post the untimely death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, while in America, effect of Covid-19 has triggered the debate.

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's tragic death has not only shocked the country, but has triggered a debate on mental health conditions. From depression to anxiety to seeking counsellors, internet has been flooded with discussion on the crucial issue, which otherwise is often ignored. A similar impact has been witnessed in United States after the outbreak of coronavirus. Amid the increased concerns on mental health, Johnson & Johnson has come up with the "first antidepressant for actively suicidal people".

According to a report in Bloomberg, J&J's Spravato has been approved by America's Food and Drug Administration.

The Food and Drug Administration approval means the quick-acting nasal spray will be available to people with suicidal thoughts and a plan to put them into action, Michelle Kramer, vice president of J&J's US neuroscience medical-affairs unit, was quoted as saying. That constitutes 11% to 12% of as many as 17 million Americans who have major depressive disorder.

Spravato has been used by about 6,000 people for treatment-resistant depression since its approval in March 2019, Kramer said. J&J's decision to study it in depressed people actively contemplating suicide bucks a trend among drugmakers who routinely exclude such patients from trials.


Part of the thinking behind the decision was that Spravato's ability to act quickly could mean it works differently than older antidepressants that can take weeks to kick in, Kramer said. In its studies, J&J found those who got the drug had a rapid reduction in the severity of their thinking, although the results didn't differ in a statistically significant way from patients given a placebo, the Bloomberg report stated.

The data from studies of the drug shows it "may offer clinicians a new way to provide support to patients quickly in the midst of an urgent depressive episode and help set them on the path to remission," said Gerard Sanacora, director of Yale's Depression Research Program and a trial investigator.

America has been in the throes of a suicide crisis even before the pandemic, with the rate rising 30% from 1999 to 2016.

In India, some fans of Rajput were reported to have killed themselves after learning about the untimely death of the actor. While a 15-year-old girl died by suicide in Andaman and Nicobar Island's Port Blair on June 17, a class 10 student from Bareilly and a 12-year-old boy from Hapur hanged themselves apparently upset over Rajput's death.

A teenager and an 18-year-old TikTok stars also died by died recently. One of them was said to be depressed over ban on video-making platform. Kannada television actor Susheel Gowda died by suicide in his home town Mandya. Tamil actor Vijaya Lakshmi was recently admitted to a hospital in Chennai after attempting suicide alleging online harassment.

Spravato is a close chemical cousin of the anesthetic ketamine, which differs from existing antidepressants because it acts on the glutamate system in the brain rather than on seratonin or norepinepherine. Scientists have been working to better understand how the drug helps patients and why it works so quickly.

The drug's approval last year marked the first major breakthrough for depression since 1987. President Donald Trump has since trumpeted the drug as having the potential to curb veteran suicides, but a Veterans Affairs medical panel only approved the drug's use on a limited basis, the report stated.

Disclaimer:This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).
first published:August 04, 2020, 12:36 IST