President touts controversial drug during speech to Veterans

Posted at 4:12 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 18:32:33-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — During his visit to Louisville yesterday, President Trump raised some eyebrows when he boasted about a new drug that he claimed has the potential to curb veteran suicide. Although he did not mention it by name, multiple media outlets report that the President is talking about Spravato, the brand name for Eskatamine.

The fast acting depressant was approved by the FDA in March and the drug has been made available to veterans enrolled in VA Care through an individualized treatment plan.

VA research shows that nationwide, about 20 veterans a day die by suicide. The release of the drug has been controversial.

Spravato is derived from Ketamine and some specialists are skeptical about how effective it will be at saving lives.

"I think the most important thing from my standpoint is there isn't enough scientific evidence. There is a lot of anecdotal data...some first or second phase where, 'okay it works this way or that way,'" says Dr. Hatim Omar, the found of Stop Youth Suicide.

In June, the VA approved the use of Spravato on a non-formulary basis, but stopped short of placing it on its approved medications list.

LEX 18 reached out the to Department of Veterans Affairs and received this statement in return:

On June 20, 2019 a team of VA clinicians approved the use of esketamine (Spravato) on a non-
formulary basis. Spravato was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 5, 2019 to be used in conjunction with an oral antidepressant for the treatment of treatment resistant depression (TRD). Spravato is available to Veterans enrolled in VA care based on an individualized treatment plan developed by their provider in collaboration with the Veteran.

In addition, VA developed clinical and procedural guidance and other tools to promote thoughtful patient selection and safe administration practices, in keeping with the FDA-approved indications for esketamine use and safety requirements. These evidence-based processes will ensure the medication is prioritized for use in Veterans who have not previously responded to adequate trials of other available treatments for major depression.

VA will closely monitor the use of esketamine in Veterans to more fully understand its relative safety and effectiveness as compared to other available treatments. Based on this information, VA may revise its clinical guidance and formulary status if warranted.

This decision reflects VA’s commitment to seek new ways to provide the best health care available for our nation’s Veterans.