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The Rapid Anti-Fatigue Effects of Ketamine for Treating Depression

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Background: Fatigue is a multidimensional condition that is difficult to treat with standard monoaminergic antidepressants. Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist produces rapid and robust improvements in depressive symptoms in treatment-resistant depression. However, there is a dearth of literature examining the anti-fatigue effects of ketamine. We hypothesize that ketamine will rapidly improve fatigue symptoms in treatment-resistant depressed patients.

Methods: This is an exploratory analysis of data obtained from two double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trials. A total of 36 participants with treatment-resistant bipolar I or II disorder in a depressive episode (maintained on therapeutic levels of lithium or valproate) received a single infusion of ketamine hydrochloride intravenously (0.5 mg/kg over 40 min) or placebo. A post-hoc analysis compared fatigue scores on ketamine vs. placebo at 10 time points from baseline through 14 days post-treatment using the National Institute of Health-Brief Fatigue Inventory.

Results: A linear mixed model showed that ketamine significantly lowered fatigue scores compared to placebo from 40 min post-treatment to Day 14 with the exception of Day 7. The largest difference in anti-fatigue effects between placebo and ketamine was at day 2 (d=0.58, p<0.05). The effect remained significant after controlling for changes in non-fatigue depressive symptoms.

Limitation: The retrospective nature and a small sample size are study limitations.

Conclusions: Ketamine rapidly improved fatigue relative to placebo in a group of individuals with treatment-resistant bipolar depression. NMDAR is a glutamate receptor; hence, glutamate may represent a valuable target to study the clinical efficacy of new anti-fatigue approaches in multiple disorders.

Keywords: Depression; Fatigue; Glutamate; Ketamine; New therapeutics.

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