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Canadian Patients Now Have Better Access to Psychedelic-assisted Therapy, Following a Federal Amendment

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 07, 2022   
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Doctors in Canada can now request psychedelic-assisted therapies for their patients through a new program, following an amendment to Health Canada’s Special Access Program (SAP).

Previously, patients who wanted to access MDMA- or psilocybin-assisted therapy had to apply for a federal exemption from the country’s health minister. The first exemptions were issued in August 2020 and three patients were granted some as recently as December 2021.

But on January 5, 2022, a regulatory change was made to Health Canada’s SAP, which reversed a 2013 clause that prohibited access to restricted drugs.

Published in the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the government of Canada, the new amendment states that, “Drugs that have not been approved for sale in Canada can generally be requested through Health Canada’s Special Access Program in instances where conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable.”

While there is no guarantee that every request for psychedelic-assisted therapy will be granted, it’s thought that the amendment should at least reduce the turnaround time of decisions from months (when applying for federal exemptions) to days.

Payton Nyquvest, CEO of the psychedelic-focused healthcare company Numinus Wellness, commended on Health Canada’s decision last month, when the regulatory change was still awaiting confirmation.

“Amending the SAP and righting a historical wrong based on stigma highlights Canada's commitment to making psychedelic-assisted therapies a possibility for the many Canadians who struggle with mental wellness,” he said in a press release.

Interest in psychedelic-assisted therapies has grown rapidly in recent years following promising research into the therapeutic benefits of drugs like psilocybin and ketamine.

A recent study from researchers from King's College London concluded that psilocybin is safe to use in 10 milligram (mg) and 25 mg doses during therapy sessions.

Speaking to Technology Networks recently, Ronan Levy, co-founder of the Toronto-based ketamine clinic Field Trip Health, remarked on the clinic’s results.

“The results we’re seeing in our clinics are just fantastic. On average, most patients who come through our treatment programs see sustained benefits in terms of their depression and anxiety scores for 120 days or more post-treatment, which, as far as I know, makes it the single most effective treatment option out there.”


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