An Update on the Efficacy and Tolerability of Oral Ketamine for Major Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Nicolas A. Nuñez, Boney Joseph, Mehak Pahwa, Ashok Seshadri, Larry J. Prokop, Simon Kung, Kathryn M. Schak, Jennifer L. Vande Voort, Mark A. Frye, Balwinder Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Intravenous Ketamine has shown robust antidepressant efficacy although other routes of administration are currently needed. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating the efficacy and tolerability of oral ketamine for depression. Methods: A comprehensive search of major electronic databases from inception to April 2020 was performed. Studies of oral ketamine for depression, from case series to randomized clinical trials, were eligible. Randomized controlled trials were included in a meta-analysis, focusing on response, remission, time to effect, and side effects. Results: A total of 917 articles were identified with 890 studies screened, yielding a total of 10 studies included in our systematic review.Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (N = 161, mean age 37.9 ± 9.5 years, 58.6% females) were included in the meta-analysis. Pooled analysis suggested a significant antidepressant effect of oral ketamine (SMD: -0.75; 95% CI: -1.08, -0.43; p<0.0001; I2 = 0%) although remission rates (RR:2.77; 95% CI:0.96, 8.00; p = 0.06) and response rates (RR:2.58; 95% CI:0.94,7.08; p = 0.07) were marginal compared to placebo at the endpoint. Oral ketamine antidepressant effects seemed to take effect at the 2nd week (SMD: -0.71; 95% CI: -1.08, -0.35; p = 0.001; I2 = 0%). There were no significant differences in the overall side-effects between oral ketamine and the placebo group (RR 1.28, 95% CI: 0.89-1.83; p = 0.19). Conclusion: This focused meta-analysis of oral ketamine suggests a marginal efficacy for major depressive disorder without increased risk of adverse events. Further larger sample studies are needed to confirm these preliminary findings, analyzing differential response/remission rates by affective disorder, optimal dosing strategies, and its long-term effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-163
Number of pages27
JournalPsychopharmacology bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 14 2020


  • bipolar depression
  • efficacy
  • mood disorders
  • oral ketamine
  • unipolar depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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