Get as much Spravato as you can, Trump orders VA while suggesting J&J should offer it to veterans for free
President Donald Trump is making good on his earlier pledge to offer Spravato, J&J’s reformulated ketamine nasal spray, to as many veterans in need, as soon as possible — however it may happen.
Addressing the issue of veteran suicide at the American Veterans National Convention Wednesday, Trump said he’s “instructed the top officials to go out and get as much of it as you can from Johnson & Johnson.”
He followed that with a call to the drugmaker to “make a contribution” to the US.
“They’ve done so well in this country, they’ve made so much money, I think they should give it to us for free,” he said, drawing applause, then gestured to AmVets National Commander Rege Riley, urging him: “Give it a shot! Give it a shot!”
The president has been reported championing the drug reportedly — which is known for its quick effect in curbing suicidal thoughts but is also plagued by safety concerns — since June when he told Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to “give it to anybody that has the problem.”
The VA had announced in March just days after Spravato was approved that its healthcare providers would offer the drug for treatment-resistant depression. Despite Trump’s endorsement, clinicians at the department voted in June against placing it on the formulary, keeping it to more limited use. Under this policy, veterans would only be prescribed Spravato if they have not responded to other treatments and gone through an authorization process.
Per current protocol, healthcare professionals must also be present to monitor the use of Spravato due to side effects such as dissociation.
It’s unclear how Trump plans to override these restrictions even if the VA is able to negotiate a favorable price with J&J or even — as he suggested — get it for free.
ICER, the drug price watchdog, has previously chastised the pharma giant for overpricing the treatment, which is closely related to intravenous generic ketamine, another formulation of the horse tranquilizer prone to abuse in party scenes. While the latter is unapproved and thus not covered by insurers, Spravato’s annual list price of $32,400 is still low value for money, ICER claimed.
For now, Trump has nothing but praise for the drug. Back on the stage at the AmVets convention:
They have something that, whatever it may do, it really takes that horrible anxiety, whatever causes somebody to be so desperate to commit suicide, you take it, it’s an inhaler, you take it, and its results are incredible. […] It does something — something pretty amazing.