Psilocybin has shown benefits in treating anxiety in terminally ill patients.
A coalition of state attorneys general, end-of-life groups, researchers, and physicians are standing in support with a Seattle palliative care physician in a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration contesting the administration’s decision to refuse terminally ill patients the use of the psychedelic treatment psilocybin.
In January, Dr. Sunil K. Aggarwal, co-director of the Seattle oncology clinic Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute, requested permission from the DEA to treat patients suffering from illness-related anxiety and depression with psilocybin. The request was made under the “Right to Try” Act, a new pathway for terminally ill patients to try certain unapproved treatments currently undergoing clinical trials. Right to try is recognized by the federal government as well as by Washington State. Canada currently allows access to the psychedelic under a similar compassionate care exemption.
In February, the DEA issued a letter in response to Dr. Aggarwal, arguing that the exemption could not be granted because psilocybin is an illegal drug—a so-called Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Dr. Aggarwal this week filed an Opening Brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the DEA “overstepped the limits of its authority” by denying the request because Right to Try allows access to eligible investigational drugs despite their scheduled status. Psilocybin is also currently being studied in clinical trials as a treatment for depression.
At least nine state attorneys general filed amicus briefs in support of Dr. Aggarwal’s lawsuit from states including Wash., Ariz., Del., Ill., Mich., Minn., Ohio, Ore., and the District of Columbia.
Organizations that filed supporting briefs include the Cato Institute, Goldwater Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, End of Life Washington, Washington Psychological Association, Evergreen Health, A Sacred Passage Death Midwifery, and Past Presidents of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Others who have joined the effort include palliative care specialists Dr. Ira Byock and Dr. Timothy Quill, and psychedelics researcher Roland Griffiths, PhD.