With prescriptions for the Schedule III psychedelic ketamine “soaring” by more than 500% since 2017, shortages in the supply chain have emerged as federal regulators warn against suppliers providing “compounded” versions of the drug, which muddies the waters for entrepreneurs.
One thing is clear, the Associated Press reported: Demand for ketamine is unquestionably up, particularly as doctors search for new medicines as a replacement for opioids to help patients control chronic pain.
Pain prescriptions made up the bulk of the new patients in the last six years, according to Epic Research, which in May published a paper on the skyrocketing popularity of ketamine after dissecting 125 million patient records.
Epic found 3,714 patients had been prescribed ketamine since 2017, and each year, pain patients have comprised the majority of recipients, although depression and anxiety aren’t far behind. In 2022, pain patients were 35% of ketamine prescriptions, compared to 28% for depression and 19% for anxiety.
The surge in ketamine’s popularity has led to some product shortages, the AP reported, which drove up sales for “compounded versions” of the drug. That led to a warning in October from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it hasn’t signed off on the safety or efficacy of many of the ketamine offshoots.
Still, the ketamine industry landscape remains a “Wild West,” Yale University’s Dr. Samuel Wilkinson told the AP, with some clinics raking in hundreds per prescription, given a lack of oversight and restrictions for compounded versions of ketamine that are used outside of surgery.
That’s because enterprising physicians and their business partners can obtain vials of ketamine for about $100 each and re-sell them to patients for between $500 to $1,500, the AP reported.
And it appears that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will maintain a hands-off approach to the ketamine boom and online prescription services for at least another year, the AP reported.