21 June 2019 - Confronted by a rising rate of suicides in some groups of veterans., the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday decided to approve the use of a new and costly depression drug, despite concerns among doctors and other experts about the drug’s effectiveness.
The decision to endorse the drug — called Spravato, and manufactured by Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson — came days after President Trump offered to negotiate a deal between the drug maker and the agency. Johnson & Johnson reportedly was working with associates at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, and the company has been supporting V.A. suicide-prevention efforts.
A spokesman for the V.A. said that the decision to approve the drug, which would cover its use by doctors in its nearly 1,000 clinics nationwide, was a medical one. In a statement, the agency said, “V.A. will closely monitor the use of esketamine” — the generic name for Spravato — “in veterans to more fully understand its relative safety and effectiveness as compared to other available treatments. Based on this information, V.A. may revise its clinical guidance” and the availability of the drug.