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Mass General Researchers Find Esmethadone Effective For Major Depressive Disorder

In This Article

  • Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found that esmethadone (REL-1017) treatments may be effective for patients with major depressive disorder
  • Led by Maurizio Fava, MD, chief of the Department of Psychiatry and of the Mass General Research Institute, the researchers assessed the effects of REL-1017 dosages on patients who experienced inadequate responses to previous antidepressant treatments
  • The study revealed favorable outcomes for rapid and sustained antidepressant effects, warranting further examination

A team of Massachusetts General Hospital researchers has discovered that esmethadone (REL-1017), a novel N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor channel blocker, may produce favorable outcomes for patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

The phase 2 study, originally published in The American Journal of Psychiatry and written about on Healio, sought to confirm the favorable tolerability, safety and pharmacokinetic profiles previously observed in patients with major depressive disorder.

Led by Maurizio Fava, MD, physician-in-chief and director of the Division of Clinical Research in the Mass General Research Institute, the team set out to assess the effects of REL-1017 dosages on patients who had previously experienced inadequate responses to antidepressant treatments.

This multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial took place over a one-week period and assessed the effects of two different dosages of esmethadone. 62 patients involved in the study, 34 of which were male and 28 female, were aged 18-65 and had experienced at least one major depressive episode lasting 8 weeks to 36 months. The patients were randomly assigned either a placebo, 25 mg per day or 50 mg per day of REL-1017.

The 57 patients who completed the trial were assessed based on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Scale (MADRS), a psychological rating that measures the severity of depressive episodes in adults.

Results of the trial revealed improvements in MADRS score within both esmethadone dosage groups, beginning on the fourth day of the trial and extending until seven days after the final dose was administered. Patients experienced passing mild or moderate adverse events, with no evidence of dissociative or psychotic behaviors, nor any symptoms of withdrawal.

Dr. Fava and the team believe that subsequent, longer trails should be conducted to confirm esmethadone’s rapid and sustained antidepressant effects in patients with major depressive disorder.

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In this video, Maurizio Fava, MD, the executive director of the Clinical Trials Network & Institute (CTNI) at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses how the CTNI is working to improve clinical trials in the field of psychiatry.