No Magic Mushroom Monopoly

No Magic Mushroom Monopoly

Relax. No one is trying to monopolize magic mushrooms.  COMPASS Pathways is not trying to monopolize magic mushrooms.  Renewed interest in psychedelic medicine (e.g., psilocybin) is not part of a corporate conspiracy to take “magic mushrooms” away from the people.

Continued COnfusion Regarding Mushrooms versus Pure Molecules

Last month, Olivia Hill published an article in Quartz titled “A millionaire couple is threatening to create a magic mushroom monopoly.”  In that article, Ms. Hill suggests that COMPASS Pathways is “Using pharma tactics to secure medical magic mushrooms.”  Not true.

Ms. Hill sets the stage by pointing out, “there is no dispute that the depression medications market—valued at $14.51 billion worldwide in 2014 and predicted to grow to $16.80 billion by 2020—holds the potential of lucrative returns for investors.” Clearly, a popular depression medication could stand to earn a lot of money.

Using these big numbers to show motivation, Ms. Hill asserts, “A company that both gains regulatory approval in North America and Europe for medical use of a lab-synthesized version of psilocybin and controls the necessary intellectual property could have the power to determine both the costs of and treatment methods for medical-grade synthetic magic mushrooms.”

(Side note: What is a “medical-grade synthetic magic mushroom”?  How does one make a “synthetic” mushroom?  Or is that the magic?)

In the Quartz article, Ms. Hill criticizes virtually everything about COMPASS Pathways, especially the company’s decision to convert the company from a non-profit into a for-profit business.  (Notably, world-renowned psychedelic researcher and advocate for psychedelic medicine, David Nichols, actually agrees with COMPASS’s decision, expressing his doubt that “any nonprofit approach could meet the needs of the millions of people with conditions that could be treated by psilocybin.”)

Without regard to why, Ms. Hill has taken such a strong position against COMPASS Pathways, her position would benefit from correcting the following factual errors:

  • Magic Mushrooms are not the same as synthetic psilocybin.  One is the fruiting body of a fungus; the other is a single molecule.  This is important for a variety of reason, including the “intellectual property” issues raised by Ms. Hill.  The distinction is also clinically important because “magic mushrooms” derive their clinical “entourage effect” from a combination of molecules whereas the whole point of making “GMP psilocybin” is to ensure that psilocybin (and only psilocybin) are included in the resulting drug product.
  • COMPASS Pathways has virtually nothing to do with “magic mushrooms.”  COMPASS Pathways is solely focused on making and using synthetic psilocybin.  They make the psilocybin in a lab without any involvement of mushrooms.  No of their research or commercial interests involve mushrooms.

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