May 12, 2023 - News

Iowa Ketamine Clinic triples capacity, depression therapy

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Iowa Ketamine Clinic relocated from Urbandale to West Des Moines last month and tripled its capacity to provide mental health therapy.

Why it matters: Demand is surging. Prior to the move, some patients had to wait weeks to begin therapy, Mindy Gingery, an owner of the clinic, tells Axios.

  • There's growing concern that unvetted and potentially risky telehealth treatments will be used more frequently for ketamine treatment if clinics are unable to keep up with patient demand.

Catch up fast: Ketamine is a hallucinogenic drug introduced in clinical practice in the 1960s as an anesthetic.

  • Growing research shows it can alleviate severe depression and has been used by some clinics for years as an "off label" treatment.
  • The FDA approved an inhaled version of the drug in 2019 for adults resistant to other antidepressant medicines.

The big picture: There's a national surge in the drug's use and not enough clinicians, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

  • More startups began offering at-home ketamine treatments after U.S. telehealth regulations were relaxed during the pandemic.
  • One example is the Canadian-based TripSitter Clinic, which promotes "Iowa online psychedelic therapy" using ketamine and online doctors.

State of play: There are at least three other ketamine clinics in Iowa, according to online listings.

How it works: The drug in clinical settings is typically administered via a series of nasal spray treatments over a month.

  • An intravenous method can sometimes offer faster results but costs around $3,000 and is less commonly covered by insurance, Gingery said.

Zoom in: There are no telehealth options or walk-in appointments at Gingery's WDM clinic, which can now treat up to 11 patients at a time.

  • Only adult patients diagnosed with a major depressive disorder referred by a doctor are eligible.
  • Patients are monitored for side effects like intoxication and high blood pressure at least two hours after treatments.

The bottom lines: Telehealth revolutionized the ability to provide therapy, but Gingery says it will never be an option for her clinic because of risks associated with the drug.

Of note: TripSitter did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

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