Bipolar depression accounts for most of the disease duration in type I and type II bipolar disorder (BD), with few treatment options, often poorly tolerated. Many individuals do not respond to first-line therapeutic options, resulting in treatment-resistant bipolar depression (B-TRD). Esketamine, the S-enantiomer of ketamine, has recently been approved for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), but no data are available on its use in B-TRD.
To compare the efficacy of esketamine in two samples of unipolar and bipolar TRD, providing preliminary indications of its effectiveness in B-TRD. Secondary outcomes included the evaluation of the safety and tolerability of esketamine in B-TRD, focusing on the average risk of an affective switch.
Thirty-five B-TRD subjects treated with esketamine nasal spray were enrolled and compared with 35 TRD patients. Anamnestic data and psychometric assessments (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale/MADRS, Hamilton-depression scale/HAM-D, Hamilton-anxiety scale/HAM-A) were collected at baseline (T0), at one month (T1), and three months (T2) follow up.
A significant reduction in depressive symptoms was found at T1 and T2 compared to T0, with no significant differences in response or remission rates between subjects with B-TRD and TRD. Esketamine showed a greater anxiolytic action in subjects with B-TRD than in those with TRD. Improvement in depressive symptoms was not associated with treatment-emergent affective switch.
Our results supported the effectiveness and tolerability of esketamine in a real-world population of subjects with B-TRD. The low risk of manic switch in B-TRD patients confirmed the safety of this treatment.