The experimental drug esketamine (also known as ketamine) has been placed on the fast track for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for treating major depression, according to Janssen Pharmaceutical.
Ketamine — perhaps best known as a street drug — is listed by the World Health Organization as an important anesthetic and has been used off-label for pain, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, CNN reported.
In 1970, the drug received FDA approval for use in people and was used on American soldiers in Vietnam as an analgesic and sedative. However, doctors became reluctant to use it because it caused minor hallucinogenic side effects.
If the new use gets the go-ahead from the FDA, it would be the first new treatment for major depression approved in about half a century, according to CNN.