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Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2018


Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Ketamine Being Used as Unapproved Treatment for Depression

The drug ketamine is being used in the United States as an unapproved treatment for depression and suicidal behavior, even though there is little evidence on long-term risks and benefits.

Ketamine was introduced decades ago as human and animal anesthetic, was used as a pain reliever on Vietnam battlefields, and became the club drug Special K, according to the Associated Press.

Now, a growing number of clinics across the U.S. claim that treatment with ketamine in IV, spray or pill form can provide instant relief for depression.

Despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved ketamine for such use, patients are paying thousands of dollars for the often treatments often not covered by health insurance, the AP reported.

Ketamine has the potential to provide almost immediate if temporary relief from depression, according to Dr. Jennifer Vande Voort, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist who has treated patients since early this year.

"We don't have a lot of things that provide that kind of effect. What I worry about is that it gets so hyped up," she told the AP.

Some studies suggest that ketamine is most effective and generally safe in giving short-term relief for patients who don't respond to antidepressants, or about one-third of the 300 million people with depression worldwide.

Ketamine has "truly has revolutionized the field," Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a Yale University psychiatrist, told the AP.

The drug has altered scientists' views on how depression affects the brain and showed that quick relief is possible, according to Sanacora, who has done research for or consulted with companies trying to develop ketamine-based drugs.

However, much more research is needed before ketamine might become a standard depression treatment, Sanacora noted.

Last year, he co-authored an American Psychiatric Association task force review of ketamine treatment for mood disorders. The task force concluded that while the drug may offer benefits, there are still "major gaps" in knowledge about its long-term effectiveness and safety, the AP reported.

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Texas Lesbian Couple Is First to Both Carry Same Baby

Using a special type of in-vitro fertilization, two women in a same-sex couple became the first to both carry their baby.

"This represents the first time that two women have both physically carried their child together," fertility specialist Dr. Kathy Doody of The Center for Assisted Reproduction, who works with husband Dr. Kevin Doody, told CBS News.

Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter of North Texas had their son Stetson through what's called effortless IVF, using Bliss' eggs and a donor's sperm.

Instead of placing the sperm and eggs into incubators, they are put into a device called an INVOcell that's placed in the body for five days where the eggs are fertilized and early embryo development begins.

In this case, Bliss carried the INVOcell. The embryos were frozen and one was transferred to Ashleigh, who carried the baby to term, CBS News reported.

The couple refer to 5-month-old Stetson as their miracle baby. "The way that Mr. Stetson came into this world was pretty special," Ashleigh said.

"This is a revolutionary type of IVF," Kevin Doody told CBS News. "It's more accessible, it's more affordable and it's truly more natural."

This the first time the Doodys have had a same-sex couple go through Effortless IVF, but they've performed the process for around 200 heterosexual couples.

Effortless IVF typically costs about half as much as traditional IVF, according to the Doodys.

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