Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) shares edged higher Wednesday after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved a controversial antidespressant treatment, the first in three decades, even as it cautioned against potential misuse.
Esketamine, which will be sold by Johnson & Johnson as Spravato, is a nasal spray antidepressant that has the identical chemical properties of ketamine, a widely-used anesthetic that is also a popular street drug known as "Special K". The FDA has demanded the treatment carries the highest warning level, however, and will insist that patients may only use it in a doctor's office and in the presence of a physician.
"Spravato has the potential to change the treatment paradigm and offer new hope to the estimated one-third of people with major depressive disorder who have not responded to existing therapies,' said Dr. Mathai Mammen of Janssen Research & Development. "This unique and innovative medicine is a testament to Janssen's heritage of advancing solutions in neuroscience to heal minds and improve health outcomes."
Johnson & Johnson shares were marked 0.1% higher at the start of trading Wednesday and changing hands at $138.82 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date advance to around 9.3%.
"This a huge win on multiple levels, Morgan Stanley has previously stated their belief that this could be a $1 billion product by 2022," said Zev Fima, an analyst with Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS team, which holds J&J in its portfolio. "But as big a win as this is for shareholders, it's an even bigger win for out veterans and anyone else dealing with treatment resistant depression."
"As Bloomberg put it, this is "the first major therapeutic advance for depression since the introduction of Prozac in 1987." We couldn't be happier with the news, this drug will truly save lives.