Nasal spray to treat depression could be 'breakthrough', Abu Dhabi health operator says

Treatment with esketamine has been positive so far for long-suffering patients

SEHA believes a new nasal spray could be a game-changer when it comes to depression. Photo: SEHA

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) believes a nasal spray could be a major breakthrough in the battle against depression.

The emirate's healthcare operator has treated patients - who had no success with standard medicines - with esketamine nasal spray.

Seha said the results of the treatment have been positive, so far and it comes ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

Esketamine nasal spray. Photo: Alamy

In one case, a 30-year-old man, with major depressive disorders over the past six years, was prescribed with esketamine after every other medication failed to improve his condition.

A month after his doctor started him on the nasal spray, he began to notice a positive impact on his outlook and lifestyle, Seha said.

Esketamine is made from a drug called ketamine, which has been used historically to treat depression. But it wasn’t until recently that esketamine, a more potent form of the drug, earned the approval of regulators. Esketamine targets new receptors in the brain than those which were traditionally addressed by antidepressant medications. Seha said it had shown good safety profile and tolerability in patients.

Another patient who was among the first to receive the treatment was a suicidal 20-year-old woman.

The nasal spray helped improve her condition and significantly decreased her suicidal thoughts, the regulator said.

A young man, who had refused to leave his room for three years and had given up studying due to the extent of his depression, was also singled out by Seha.

After receiving the new treatment he resumed school and aims to enroll in college.

The new treatment is being provided to patients at clinics across Abu Dhabi, including Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

“Mental health and its treatment differ from patient to patient, which is why we are pleased to add another treatment method to our services, giving us more bandwidth to explore treatment solutions that are as tailored to each patient as possible,” said Dr Nahida Ahmed, consultant psychiatrist and chairwoman of the behavioural health council at Seha.

Updated: October 09, 2021, 4:11 PM