FDA considers cutting-edge treatment to treat depression

Sandra Hatfield said a few years ago she started to feel different. She no longer enjoyed activities like working out or playing her guitar.

“When day-to-day things became drudgery, that's not a good quality of life,” Hatfield said. “You’re kind of pushing things down. Right. Going to push this down, push this down. Again, you can only push it down so far until it comes to a head, and that’s what happened.”

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Hatfield said her move to Indian Land from California, and problems with her career, brought her down, and she was looking for any solution to feel like herself again. She started to look into the drug ketamine, and how it could help with depression.

“It seemed very scary because I’m not a person that has done psychotic drugs or anything like that, but there was a day where I just kind of hit the wall…like I couldn’t fake my way through another day,” said Hatfield.

About six months ago, Hatfield saw psychologist Kuran Abraham at COPE Charlotte. He immediately recommended that Hatfield start getting ketamine infusions.

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“There is a lot of care, hand holding, compassion and empathy. I believe that needs to bleeds with society a little bit more on how we interact with other,” said Hatfield.

After her second treatment, Hatfield said something changed within her.

“When I took a shower and enjoyed it--I know that sounds strange; you get in the shower, refresh-- I didn't realize how away I was from happiness and joy,” she said.

Abraham said each ketamine treatment costs $450. He said the Charlotte office was one of the first to use ketamine to help patients with depression. He said since they started the treatment in June 2018, 32 patients, including Hatfield have taken advantage.

Abraham said at any given time 50 million to 60 million people are diagnosed with depression. He said there are a lot of Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, but he said about 40 percent aren’t effective for patients. He said the ketamine works.

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“Their mood totally changes. They are more happy, interacting with spouses…In two weeks, they show difference. No other medication shows that difference,” said Abraham.

Right now, patients pay for the ketamine treatment out of pocket, sometimes going back multiple times a month. The FDA is currently considering approval for "Esketamine," a type of ketamine that can be used as a nasal spray. If approved, it could be covered by insurance.

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Hatifield said she wants people to realize that help doesn’t just come from a doctor’s office, but from others in the community.

“I just feel like it needs to get out there. That, and the fact that we need to try and recognize someone hurting, and try and help them…The stigma with feeling down, or depressed, whatever the issue, it has to go away,” said Hatfield.

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Ketamine infusions just recently became a strong method to help those diagnosed with conditions like depression, suicidal feelings, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorders. If Esketamine is approved by the FDA in the coming weeks, doctors expect it to be the preferred method for patients going through severe depression. COPE Charlotte said if the drug is approved, it could start offering it to its patients as early as May. Studies show it has few side effects, but could be worrisome for people with high blood pressure.