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By Faith Ashmore, Benzinga

In the world of mental healthcare, there has been growing criticism over traditional drugs that treat depression. Traditional drugs that treat depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), primarily target the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, to alleviate symptoms of depression. These medications work by blocking the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, allowing them to accumulate in the brain and enhance mood regulation.

However, SSRIs and SNRIs have received criticism for their potential side effects, such as sexual dysfunction, weight gain and withdrawal symptoms. More and more studies are coming out questioning their efficacy as well. As antidepressants are looking less shiny to consumers and scientists, it begs the question, what is the alternative?

Is Ketamine The Answer To Hard To Treat Mental Illnesses?

In recent years, alternative treatments for hard-to-treat mental illnesses like treatment-resistant depression (TRD), bipolar 2 and PTSD have become increasingly common and sought-after. Drugs like MDMA and ketamine have gotten attention for being often more effective and less dangerous than traditional medicine. Ketamine, which is a dissociative anesthetic, targets the glutamate system in the brain, specifically the NMDA receptors, and modulates the release of neurotransmitters like glutamate. By doing so, ketamine can rapidly improve depressive symptoms, often within hours or days, in contrast to the weeks or months that traditional antidepressants may require.

Psychedelics, like ketamine, are emerging as a potential treatment option for mental health conditions by disrupting rigid neural pathways associated with depression, anxiety, and other disorders. Research indicates that these substances have the potential to promote neuroplasticity and restore neural circuits, ultimately leading to improved mental health outcomes. For patients who are struggling under the weight of a difficult-to-treat mental illness, these alternatives can be life-saving. Even high-profile celebrities like Elon Musk have opened up about their success with ketamine as a depression treatment.

Companies like SiloPharma Inc. (NASDAQ: SILO) are at the forefront of developing alternative treatments for conditions such as depression. With a focus on underserved areas, including PTSD, stress-induced psychiatric disorders, chronic pain and central nervous system diseases, SiloPharma aims to provide novel therapeutics to address these unmet needs. They have built a growing pipeline of opportunities, leveraging the promising potential of psychedelic drugs and conventional formulations.

The company recently conducted a study in partnership with Columbia University, which explored new pathways involved in mood regulation. This study yielded promising results, showing significant improvements in patient mood stability without the common side effects of existing antidepressants. As a result, Silo has successfully progressed SPC-15 through pre-clinical development and is now preparing to submit a pre-investigational New Drug Application (IND) to the FDA. This application will focus on SPC-15's use in treating PTSD, a lead indication for the drug.

The recently completed study demonstrated marked improvements in mood stability, which we see as a potentially significant development for combatting depression and preventing relapse, said Silo CEO Eric Weisblum. While advancing our SPC-15 program in PTSD to the clinic remains our top pipeline priority, we are excited about these encouraging new results and the additional potential for treating millions of people affected by depression which could ultimately expand our pipeline.

Silo has exercised its option to license SPC-15 from Columbia University, as outlined in its sponsored research and option agreement established in 2021. The license agreement, currently in the finalization stage, will grant Silo the exclusive rights to further develop, manufacture and distribute SPC-15 globally. Completion of the exclusive license agreement is expected by the first half of 2024.

SiloPharma is not alone in the pursuit of alternative treatment for mental health; Atai Life Sciences (NASDAQ: ATAI) and Field Trip Health Ltd (NASDAQ: FTRP) are both exploring R-ketamine and MDMA treatments, respectively. For patients who are in desperate need of alternative treatment, ketamine is looking like a viable option, and companies like SiloPharma are helping to make that more possible.

Featured photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.

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