An experimental drug known as AZD6765 has demonstrated its ability to improve depressive symptoms after just over an hour of having taken it. The effect lasted for 30 minutes with some individuals experiencing its positive effects for a couple of days. Participants in the study were individuals who had failed on alternative anti-depressant therapies including drugs and more extreme treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy.
Today the most commonly prescribed antidepressants take up to two or three weeks to take effect (sometimes longer) which can put a person’s mental health at risk if they are not seeing changes soon enough. These antidepressants work by increasing serotonin in the brain, but the new experimental drug works in a different way. Like drugs such as ketamine, it prevents the binding of glutamate (a brain chemical) to nerve cells. Glutamate is involved in mood regulation.
In the study itself, half of the participants took AZD6765, which was administered via an intravenous solution (IV), and the other half took a placebo. All these individuals then filled in a survey that measured their depressive symptoms immediately after taking the drug and then again a few days after treatment. A week later the placebo and IV groups switched so that all individuals received the AZD6765 during the study.
The results: 32% of of the 22 patients who partook demonstrated a meaningful and positive change within 80 minutes of taking the drug. This response tended to last for about 1/2 an hour. The main side effects of AZD6765 were nausea and headache, though nothing serious was reported in the study. Unlike its chemical similar ketamine, the use of AZD6765 did not result in out-of-body experiences. It is thought that the side effects of ketamine and AZD6765 were different because the latter does not result in complete prevention of glutamate binding whereas the former does.
However the new drug did not demonstrate the same efficacy as ketamine itself. Former studies using ketamine showed a response rate in more than 50% of individuals with the results lasting for as long as 7 days.
Further studies will likely test varying dosages as well as the frequency at which doses are administered, but for now it looks like a quicker fix for depression is well on its way.