Single-dose infusion ketamine and non-ketamine N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists for unipolar and bipolar depression: A meta-analysis of efficacy, safety and time trajectories

Taishiro Kishimoto, J. M. Chawla, K. Hagi, C. A. Zarate, J. M. Kane, M. Bauer, C. U. Correll

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Background Ketamine and non-ketamine N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists (NMDAR antagonists) recently demonstrated antidepressant efficacy for the treatment of refractory depression, but effect sizes, trajectories and possible class effects are unclear. Method We searched PubMed/PsycINFO/Web of Science/ until 25 August 2015. Parallel-group or cross-over randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing single intravenous infusion of ketamine or a non-ketamine NMDAR antagonist v. placebo/pseudo-placebo in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and/or bipolar depression (BD) were included in the analyses. Hedges' g and risk ratios and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using a random-effects model. The primary outcome was depressive symptom change. Secondary outcomes included response, remission, all-cause discontinuation and adverse effects. Results A total of 14 RCTs (nine ketamine studies: n = 234; five non-ketamine NMDAR antagonist studies: n = 354; MDD = 554, BD = 34), lasting 10.0 ± 8.8 days, were meta-analysed. Ketamine reduced depression significantly more than placebo/pseudo-placebo beginning at 40 min, peaking at day 1 (Hedges' g = -1.00, 95% CI -1.28 to -0.73, p <0.001), and loosing superiority by days 10-12. Non-ketamine NMDAR antagonists were superior to placebo only on days 5-8 (Hedges' g = -0.37, 95% CI -0.66 to -0.09, p = 0.01). Compared with placebo/pseudo-placebo, ketamine led to significantly greater response (40 min to day 7) and remission (80 min to days 3-5). Non-ketamine NMDAR antagonists achieved greater response at day 2 and days 3-5. All-cause discontinuation was similar between ketamine (p = 0.34) or non-ketamine NMDAR antagonists (p = 0.94) and placebo. Although some adverse effects were more common with ketamine/NMDAR antagonists than placebo, these were transient and clinically insignificant. Conclusions A single infusion of ketamine, but less so of non-ketamine NMDAR antagonists, has ultra-rapid efficacy for MDD and BD, lasting for up to 1 week. Development of easy-to-administer, repeatedly given NMDAR antagonists without risk of brain toxicity is of critical importance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1472
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May 1



  • Bipolar depression
  • depression
  • ketamine
  • meta-analyses
  • N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists
  • trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology

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