Coronavirus: FDA approves Johnson & Johnson nasal spray for treatment of acutely suicidal patients

FDA approves nasal spray for treatment of acutely suicidal patients

TITUSVILLE, N.J. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Johnson & Johnson’s Spravato nasal spray as the first antidepressant supplement intended specifically to help treat acutely suicidal patients.

The approval comes as the U.S. medical community becomes increasingly concerned about the effects of the novel coronavirus on the nation’s mental health.

According to a news release issued by the company, the fast-acting nasal spray is approved only when taken with an oral antidepressant, to treat “depressive symptoms in adults with major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.”

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Michelle Kramer, vice president of J&J’s U.S. neuroscience medical-affairs unit, told Bloomberg the approval means the quick-acting nasal spray will be available to people “with suicidal thoughts and a plan to put them into action,” or roughly 12% of as many as 17 million Americans suffering from major depressive disorder.

Spravato has already been used by roughly 6,000 people for treatment-resistant depression since its approval for that purpose in March 2019, Kramer said.

According to the news release, Spravato is the first and only approved medication that has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms within 24 hours, “providing a new option for significant symptom relief until a longer-term, comprehensive treatment plan can take effect.”

Theresa Nguyen, Chief Program Officer for Mental Health America, called the quick-acting formula “potentially life changing” because traditional oral antidepressants often need weeks or more to take effect.

“Many people who live with depression know all too well the feeling of desperation. If that major depression progresses to active suicidal thoughts, it’s crushing, and they need options to help change the trajectory of their acute depressive episode,” Nguyen said in the news release.

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