Despite death and overdose, therapeutic Ecstasy shows promise
"This ecstasy doth unperplex / (We said) and tell us what we love." - John Donne
Approved by Health Canada more than three years ago, the study – titled “MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” -- required the drug to be imported from Switzerland, where it is produced, and stored securely at a Vancouver pharmacy.
Feldmár, along with study co-author Dr. Ingrid Pacey, enlisted a pharmacist in Kerrisdale neighbourhood to apply for an import permit. In May, inspectors flew from Ottawa to inspect the site, and said security improvements were required to ensure the MDMA would not be stolen.
After two Health Canada inspections and numerous safety upgrades – including an alarmed, locked safe secured to the floor inside a locked wooden box and an alarmed door to a back room – inspectors continue to increase the requirements, said pharmacist Colin Holyk, at Kerrisdale Pharmacy.
“The requirements they gave me initially are now outdated and they have a new set of requirements,” Holyk alleged in a video released in October by the study's U.S. backers, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). “My gut feeling is they're going to come back and say we've got to do something else.
“A lot of this seems to be such overkill for security measures for the small amount of medicine we're doing for the trial. It is a very, very, very small amount for a drug trial in Canada – I think they've lost sight of that.”
Health Canada could not be reached by press time for comment.
In the meantime, researchers are unable to seek patients and funding for the trials until the project gets the green light from Ottawa – delays that Feldmár said are depriving medicines to victims of trauma.
“It definitely causes unnecessary suffering,” he said. “It's really unconscionable to have this helpful substance banned.
“Neither Ingrid (Pacey) or I have given up. We know it's a worthwhile project -- more and more studies are being published around world showing that MDMA and other psychoactive drugs are extremely effective for people with PTSD, depression or other psychiatrically categorized problems. I don't know how long we'll wait, but we're not going to give up.”