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The first “gold standard” clinical trial of ketamine for the ongoing treatment of major depression was launched in Sydney on Tuesday and will involve seven research institutions and 200 patients from across Australia and New Zealand.

Several pilot studies have examined the effectiveness of ketamine for depression but these have typically been smaller studies testing a single dose of ketamine on acutely depressed patients.

These trials were necessary to establish whether the drug triggered a response in depressed patients and also to determine effective methods of administering it – for example, intravenously, nasally or subcutaneously.

But no trial has been conducted to see how people respond to ongoing treatment with multiple doses of the drug compared with a placebo until now. What we now need to do is establish whether it can be used as an effective ongoing clinical treatment and, if so, who best responds to the treatment and what the treatment guidelines might be. It is not good enough to say that just because it has made people feel better in previous trials, when given one dose, that it is a safe and effective treatment long term.

– Melissa Davey

Read more: First ‘gold-standard’ trial of ketamine’s anti-depressant effects launched