Australia to Permit MDMA and Psilocybin Prescriptions
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From July 1, psychiatrists in Australia will be allowed to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin as treatments for certain mental health conditions.
The somewhat surprising announcement came from the Australian government on February 3.
Prescriptions of MDMA will be limited to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while psilocybin will only be licensed for treatment-resistant depression.
According to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – which will regulate the medicines – these qualifying conditions are the only ones with “currently sufficient evidence for potential benefits” in certain patients.
“The decision acknowledges the current lack of options for patients with specific treatment-resistant mental illnesses,” said the TGA in a statement.
“It means that psilocybin and MDMA can be used therapeutically in a controlled medical setting. However, patients may be vulnerable during psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, requiring controls to protect these patients.”
To allow for these prescriptions, the TGA will now list psilocybin and MDMA as Schedule 8 (Controlled Drugs) medicines in Australia’s Poisons Standard. For all other uses, the drugs will remain in Schedule 9 (Prohibited Substances), which largely restricts their supply to clinical trials.
The TGA made its decision to reschedule the drugs following “extensive public consultation, a report from an expert panel, and advice received from the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling.”
To begin prescribing, psychiatrists will need to be approved under an Authorised Prescriber Scheme by the TGA following approval by a human research ethics committee.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Stephen Bright, the director of the charity Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine, expressed his surprise at the TGA’s move, given that “Australia is such a conservative country.”
“The details so far from the TGA are thin. There’s no products available, and aside from myself and a handful of colleagues, there’s no-one trained to provide the treatment. We’re waiting for a bit more information, to get an idea of what this looks like in practice.”