Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), the first-line pharmacological treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), have two limitations: incomplete symptom relief and 2-3 months lag time before clinically meaningful improvement. New medications with faster onset are needed. As converging evidence suggests a role for the glutamate system in the pathophysiology of OCD, we tested whether a single dose of ketamine, a non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor antagonist, could achieve rapid anti-obsessional effects. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, drug-free OCD adults (n=15) with near-constant obsessions received two 40-min intravenous infusions, one of saline and one of ketamine (0.5?mg/kg), spaced at least 1-week apart. The OCD visual analog scale (OCD-VAS) and the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) were used to assess OCD symptoms. Unexpectedly, ketamine's effects within the crossover design showed significant (p<0.005) carryover effects (ie, lasting longer than 1 week). As a result, only the first-phase data were used in additional analyses. Specifically, those receiving ketamine (n=8) reported significant improvement in obsessions (measured by OCD-VAS) during the infusion compared with subjects receiving placebo (n=7). One-week post-infusion, 50% of those receiving ketamine (n=8) met criteria for treatment response (=35% Y-BOCS reduction) vs 0% of those receiving placebo (n=7). Rapid anti-OCD effects from a single intravenous dose of ketamine can persist for at least 1 week in some OCD patients with constant intrusive thoughts. This is the first randomized, controlled trial to demonstrate that a drug affecting glutamate neurotransmission can reduce OCD symptoms without the presence of an SRI and is consistent with a glutamatergic hypothesis of OCD.
View details for DOI 10.1038/npp.2013.150
View details for Web of Science ID 000325710200016
View details for PubMedID 23783065
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3799067