Ketamine study among Otago projects funded

Paul Glue
Paul Glue
Dunedin research to shed new light on how the sometimes controversial drug ketamine helps counter anxiety and depression is among many newly funded projects.

The Health Research Council announced today the University of Otago had just received about $26.5million of $71.58 million allocated nationally to 47 health research contracts.

This funding will support planned ketamine research by Prof Paul Glue, of the university’s Dunedin department of psychological medicine, as well as 13 other Otago projects and two programme grants to Wellington campus researchers, the latter totalling nearly $10million.

Ketamine has often been used as an animal tranquilliser and also an anaesthetic in humans.

"It’s great," Prof Glue said of the $1,438,829.50 grant.

Michael Baker
Michael Baker
He remembered that about 10 years ago there was a "huge furore" over suggestions of any possible use of ketamine for patients with mental illness.

About 20% of New Zealanders were affected by either anxiety, or, from time to time, depression and other neurotic and stress-related disorders, which were a "leading cause of health disability", resulting in costs to public health and suicide risk.

Conventional drugs targeted only some of these disorders and often took months to become fully effective, and 30% of patients were "completely treatment resistant", resulting in high costs and suicide risks, he said.

Ketamine appeared "swiftly therapeutic in all" and no-one knew why.

Otago researchers would, for the first time, use EEGs to assess brain-wave patterns and brain activity and efficacy during ketamine therapy across several neurotic disorders.

The results should lead to new methods that could revolutionise treatment for such patients, he said.

Prof Michael Baker, of Otago’s Wellington campus, has received $4,951,982.35 to undertake a five-year study on the "integrated prevention of infectious diseases and long-term conditions".

"Poverty, infectious diseases, and serious long-term conditions such as stomach cancer and diabetes tend to occur together — termed ‘syndemics’," Prof Baker said.

A "symbiotic" programme team would work in partnership with communities, practitioners, Maori health providers and policymakers to "create practical, effective solutions to break syndemic cycles and advance health and equity", he said.

Among the several research goals were "better vaccination policy and improved safety of the food supply and drinking water".

Associate Prof Nevil Pierse, also of the Wellington campus, received $4,996,214.50 over five years for research to "maximise the health and wellbeing gains from housing".

Other Otago projects.— Prof Gregory Cook, microbiology and immunology, $1,197,343.55; Prof Catherine Day, biochemistry $1,197,433.37; Prof David Grattan, anatomy, $1,199,971.30; Prof Greg Jones, surgical sciences, $1,325,323.50; Associate Prof Peter Jones, physiology, $1,189,936.70; Dr Matthew McNeil, microbiology and immunology, $1,199,272.35; Associate Prof Ivan Sammut, pharmacology and toxicology, $1,143,638.85; Prof Paul Smith, pharmacology and toxicology, $1,188,357.10; Dr Khoon Lim, Christchurch, $730,435.20; Prof Lynette Sadleir, $1,199,869.65; Dr Melissa McLeod, $1,199,300.15; Dr Caroline Shaw, $1,199,695.10, all Wellington; Pacific project, Dr Jesse Kokaua, Wellington, $1,199,999.55.


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