Esketamine program introduced at ServiceNet as major breakthrough




NORTHAMPTON — One of the biggest breakthroughs in the mental health realm is officially available at ServiceNet.

The Western Massachusetts mental health provider announced the launch of a new esketamine program at its Northampton clinic in early August. The treatment was officially approved by the FDA in 2019 and is now covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and MassHealth.

According to Katie Hershon, the medical director for ServiceNet, esketamine treatment can decrease depressive symptoms in as little as 24 hours based on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Scale, which is the scale used to measure depression. Hershon said this concept is unique to any depression treatment.

“This is the first big breakthrough in treating major depression and reducing suicidal risk since TMS [Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation] was approved in 2008,” said Hershon, when speaking on the new treatment.

In an interview with Reminder Publishing, Hershon said esketamine works on people’s NMDA receptors, where glutamate is modulated. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is part of one’s emotions, memory and anxiety. Hershon said that nothing in psychiatry had targeted that part of the nervous system before esketamine.

Hershon said there was still a large segment of the population that was not responding well to other antidepressant treatments like serotonin or norepinephrine, and in 2008, more intensive treatment Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was introduced. But that, too, has its benefits and drawbacks. With esketamine, the side effects are brief, according to Hershon.

“[Esketamine] is a new approach to depression management, and a lot of people like it because it clears your system within two hours,” Hershon said. “You’re not taking a pill every day, and the side effects are really brief.”

According to Hershon, the Northampton clinic has a special esketamine room where patients come in and self-administer in front of Hershon via nasal spray, similar to a Flonase. All of the patients start at 56 milligrams and most people move up to 84 if they are tolerating the treatment well.

The general treatment course is twice a week for four weeks and then once a week for four weeks. After that, Hershon said patients spread it out based on the patient’s resolution of the depression symptoms.

“It’s a treatment, not a cure,” Hershon said. “That’s important to remember, because it’s not like you’ll be cured from a lifetime of depression. But, there’s definitely a lower symptom burden.”

In just four weeks of administering the treatment, Hershon said she has seen the positive effects of the new treatment. She said one gentleman told her he has hope for the first time in years after taking it while another patient said she finally had the energy to finish a painting she delayed for years.

“People have felt calmer and less anxious,” Hershon said of the first four weeks. “I think this is going to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

According to a release, esketamine is available for patients with treatment-resistant depression who have already tried at least two courses of antidepressant medication without experiencing improvement in their symptoms. Patients must also qualify through a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy Program to ensure that use of the drug is an appropriate treatment option for them.

Hershon said people can email [email protected] for referrals.

To read the original article, click here.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt