Pharmaceutical Interest in Psilocybin
Pharmaceutical interest in psilocybin appears to be increasing. As of September 1st, 2018, eighteen clinical trials with psilocybin have been completed. See Global Data Clinical Trials Database. Twenty one clinical trails for psilocybin treatments are currently ongoing.
A recent article in Pharmaceutical Technology explains the significance of the pharmaceutical industry’s renewed interest in psilocybin. The authors explain that “more rigorous scientific studies could result in psilocybin cementing itself as a mainstream psychotherapeutic.” (emphasis added).
The current interest in pharmaceutical psilocybin is encouraging. Some authors have expressed concern that the pharmaceutical industry would avoid entering the psilocybin space on account of the psilocybin patent landscape. Michael Pollan (author of the New York Times Best Seller, How to Change Your Mind) explains “there’s no IP here. There’s no intellectual property… there are no patents as far as I know.” Thankfully, the patent landscape has not proven to be an insurmountable obstacle– likely because patenting psilocybin technology is possible. In fact, COMPASS Pathways and Paul Stamets both have patents pending in the psilocybin space.
COMPASS Pathways at the Forefront
On August 22, 2018, COMPASS’s Phase IIb dose-ranging study was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. See Psilocybin Clinical Trials Approved by FDA. With 216 patients, COMPASS’s study will be the largest clinical study ever done with psilocybin. The work will involve patients from research centers across Europe and North America.
Future of Pharmaceutical Research
The existing data on psilocybin therapies indicate that psilocybin has tremendous potential for treating mood disorders. Additional research (including more clinical trials) will likely support this conclusion.
Notably, psilocybin is only one of the active molecules in “magic mushrooms.” Accordingly, once the industry concludes that psilocybin is a valuable psychotherapeutic drug, the next step will involve studying the other active molecules that are present in naturally occurring magic mushrooms.
Just as we have learned from the cannabis industry, focusing on one active molecule (e.g., THC in cannabis or psilocybin in magic mushrooms) fails to capture the full potential of the naturally occurring organism. In the cannabis industry, formulations comprising multiple cannabinoids and terpenes are considered superior to isolated THC. Likewise, formulations comprising combinations of multiple psilocybin derivatives will almost certainly prove superior to using only one of the active molecules in isolation. See Entourage Effect.