Clinician, Patients Take the Fight for Psilocybin To Court

Should a patient at the end of her life have access to psilocybin, even if it’s illegal?

The first legal challenge to allow psilocybin therapy for end-of-life care patients is moving forward in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD, FAAPMR, inaugural member and codirector of the AIMS Advanced Integrated Medical Science Institute, participated in a Q + A session on March 9, 2021 to discuss the case and the issues.

Special counsel and leading patient rights advocate, Kathryn Tucker, Esq, and patient Erinn Baldeschwiler joined Aggarwal for the discussion.

According to Tucker, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) blocked Baldeschwiler and another patient, Michal Bloom, both of whom have advanced cancer, from accessing therapy with the naturally occurring psychedelic, psilocybin. Psilocybin has reportedly shown potential effectiveness in alleviating depression and anxiety.

The Petition for Review was filed on March 8, 2021, seeking review of the DEA denial of access to psilocybin as contemplated by federal and state Right to Try laws. The list of defendants includes the DEA, the DEA Administrator, and the US Attorney General.1

“Our focus is on maximizing quality of life at all costs,” Aggarwal said in the Q+A session. “These substances could improve quality of life or even extend the lives of my patients.”

Psilocybin is currently classified as a Class I Substance by the DEA, but it might be a major improvement for patients struggling with a cancer diagnosis. Baldeschwiler, aged 48, has stage 4 metastatic triple negative breast cancer, and claims psilocybin has improved her symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“[It] helps to alleviate everything that comes with this,” Baldeschwiler said. “I want to keep this door open for other patients.”

When asked how psilocybin could impact the mental health field as a whole, Aggarwal stated it would be a whole new approach to not just depression and anxiety, but posttraumatic stress disorder and addiction as well. However, he also agreed physicians would need significant training and “to know it inside and out,” before this drug could enter regular practice. 

Reference

1. KTVN. Nation’s first legal challenge to allow psilocybin therapy in end-of-life care under “right-to-try” laws moves forward. News release. March 9, 2021. https://www.ktvn.com/story/43466227/nations-first-legal-challenge-to-allow-psilocybin-therapy-in-end-of-life-care-under-right-to-try-laws-moves-forward