Terminally ill cancer patients in Canada now have access to a legal supply of psilocybin.
The psychoactive compound, found naturally in magic mushroom, can help with end of life anxiety.
Psilocybin is illegal in Canada. Patients could previously get exemptions to use it, but couldn’t easily access the drug.
Six terminally-ill cancer patients in Canada have received the country’s first legally-produced psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found naturally in ‘magic’ mushrooms, under new rules surrounding access to the substance.
The patients received the drug, alongside therapy, over the weekend.
Health Canada amended its rules in January so that doctors can now request access to professionally manufactured psilocybin for terminally-ill patients as part of a “Special Access Programme.” Psilocybin is illegal in the country, but has shown promise for the treatment of end-of-life anxiety for patients with life-threatening cancers.
Patients were previously allowed to apply for exemptions to use psilocybin, but there was no framework in place for them to access professionally manufactured drugs. That meant they either had to grow their own mushrooms or source the substance from an unlicensed dispensary.
Under the new rules, patients who have been approved through Health Canada’s SAP can now get access to a man-made version of psilocybin from a regulator-approved licensed dealer. While the treatment aims to improve symptoms, it does not tackle cancer itself.
Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, a non profit that helps Canadians get access to psychedelic therapy said in a statement Monday that it was a “momentous occasion”.
“This is a major win for patients and doctors who have been left in the dark for the past 2 years with legal exemptions but no supply of psilocybin,” he said.
Hawkswell told the Vancouver Sun that patients often didn’t know what was inside the substances they were purchasing. “It’s not as safe as it should be,” Hawkswell said.
As well as the six that had been approved, four requests for other individuals are under review, Health Canada told Insider.
‘Magic’ mushrooms allowed me to calm the worries in my head
Thomas Hartle, the first Canadian to access legal psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in August 2020, was one of the six cancer patients to receive the drug alongside therapy over the weekend.
Hartle flew from his hometown Saskatoon, a city in western Canada, to Vancouver Island, off the Pacific Coast, to receive psilocybin for the first time since August 2021 when his year-long exemption expired.
Hartle initially legally procured his own “grey market mushrooms” and used them alongside his therapist in Saskatoon. This time, he was given medical grade psilocybin from psychedelic drug maker Psygen Labs and received group therapy with the other five patients. The SAP requires physician oversight and a treatment team.
Hartle told the Vancouver Sun that the effects of his first experience lasted for six months.
“Magic mushrooms allowed me to calm the worries in my head, allowing my body to use my energy for healing instead and process those fears in a supportive environment,” he said, per the Vancouver Sun.
Hartle said that it took him 103 days to get the first exemption and he hadn’t heard back about his renewal application, which had taken more than 176 days. Securing approval via the new SAP took three months, he said.
Health Canada said that it expected approvals could be secured more rapidly in the future now that first authorizations had been granted.
“Requests to the SAP involving new products or new indications typically take longer to process, because verifications must take place with the manufacturer regarding product quality and their ability and willingness to provide the drug,” the health body told Insider. “However, once access to a specific product has been authorized by the SAP, ensuing requests for the same drug and indication can be processed much more quickly.”
Read the original article on Business Insider