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‘Beyond the evidence’: media reports overhype ketamine’s use as a depression treatment, review finds

Many media stories about ketamine as a treatment for psychiatric disorders such as depression “go well beyond the evidence base” by exaggerating the efficacy, safety and longevity of the drug or by overstating the risks, an analysis has found.

Researchers examined 119 articles about ketamine and mental illness published by major print media in Australia, the US and UK over a five-year period. They found articles peaked in 2019, when the US Food and Drug Administration approved a ketamine-derived nasal spray known as esketamine for treatment-resistant depression.

Researchers found 37% of articles contained inaccurate information, largely related to efficacy, safety information and the longevity of the effect of the treatment. Ketamine treatment was portrayed in an “extremely positive light” in 69% of articles, the review found.

“Overly optimistic statements from medical professionals regarding efficacy or safety may encourage patients to seek treatments that may not be clinically appropriate,” says the paper, published  in the journal BJPsych Open.

“Disconcertingly, some articles included strong statements about treatment efficacy that went well beyond the evidence base. Conversely, exaggeration of the risks may discourage patients from pursuing a treatment that may be suitable for them.”

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Source: The Guardian, 8 June 2023


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