Exploring the Legislative Changes That Will Make Psychedelics Easier To Access in Canada
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As psychedelics’ potential to benefit patients with mental health disorders becomes clearer, patient access to these often heavily restricted compounds has become a bottleneck for burgeoning research efforts.
Recent legislation changes by Health Canada have seen psychedelics become easier to prescribe for a range of mental health conditions. We spoke to Alexander Somjen, CEO of Origin Therapeutics, a Canadian investor in the psychedelics industry, to find out what the impact of these changes will be for physicians, patients and providers.
Ruairi Mackenzie (RM): What is the Special Access Program?
Alexander Somjen (AS): Health Canada’s Special Access Program (SAP), which has now become available daily to Canadian healthcare professionals, offers an alternative treatment option. The SAP empowers healthcare professionals to request drugs not currently available in Canada, meaning that healthcare professionals such as licensed physicians can explore innovative treatments for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed, are unsuitable, or are unavailable. The healthcare professionals are required to inform patients of the risks and benefits of the treatment and report to Health Canada on the results. The prescribing physicians must make decisions supported by credible evidence available in medical literature or provided by the manufacturer.
RM: Could you summarize the recent amendments to the SAP that affect access to psychedelics?
AS: The federal regulations were amended under the SAP to expand access to MDMA and psilocybin therapy, similar to what has been done with ketamine therapy. These drugs can now be prescribed for conditions such as PTSD, insomnia, depression, and other diagnoses. These changes clear the way for innovative psychedelic therapies to be another tool in the healthcare
RM: What impacts will these changes have for healthcare professionals and patients?
AS: The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that 20% of Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness every year. The CHMA notes that mental illness costs the Canadian social and healthcare system nearly $80 billion for 2021.
These changes are a definite step forward in providing more treatment options for patients struggling with mental health issues, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health in recent years has really been coming to the forefront as an area that requires new innovation. These changes give the green light for evidence-based psychedelic medicine treatment, which has the potential to significantly help a great number of Canadians.
RM: How will these changes impact the wider psychedelics industry?
AS: The peer-reviewed, scientifically proven treatment from psychedelic medicine is an exciting development spurring great changes to mental healthcare in Canada. It is our hope that this area of medicine will continue to expand and that other nations follow this example and embrace psychedelic treatment options that are safe, effective, and affordable.
RM: Are other regulatory hurdles likely to fall after these changes to the SAP?
AS: What is clear is the upward sustained growth trend forecasted for the broader psychedelic drug market. Research and Markets projects the psychedelic drug market size to reach $10.75 billion (USD) by 2027. Removing regulatory hurdles and other barriers to care will only further propel the psychedelic industry forward.
Alexander Somjen was speaking to Ruairi J Mackenzie, Senior Science Writer for Technology Networks