On Friday, November 7 the Canadian Institutional Review Board (IRB) granted conditional approval for our MDMA/PTSD protocol. The conditions are relatively easy to meet. We must have resuscitation equipment at the research clinic, confirm that study staff will possess previous practical experience with psychological distress, especially with respect to psychedelic drugs, and add a tool for the assessment of subjects’ suicidal risk (e.g., suicidal ideation) to provide a more structured evaluation. We are now selecting a preferred measure for assessing suicide risk. We are also now preparing documents to be submitted to Health Canada (Canada’s version of the FDA).
The IRB met on Wednesday, November 5 to review our replies to changes previously requested by the IRB. The IRB reviewed our responses and approved them. We replied to issues related to the open label stage of the protocol, the age of enrollment, and prior substance abuse history of subjects. The IRB agreed that we can retain the open label stage 2 portion of the protocol—the portion of the protocol in which everyone who was randomized to placebo in Stage 1 receives open label MDMA in the Stage 2. The inclusion of an open-label Stage 2 in our protocol has multiple purposes: 1) The therapist can better learn the contribution that MDMA itself plays in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy by treating patients who initially received placebo (psychotherapy without a full dose of MDMA 2) It is scientifically valuable since subjects who receive placebo initially act as their own controls; 3) It helps with recruitment and retention of subjects, since subjects know that by participating in the study they will eventually get the opportunity to receive MDMA-assisted psychotherapy
We reached a compromise agreement with the IRB on the age of enrollment and prior substance abuse history. Subjects must be 21 years old to enter the treatment and cannot have abused drugs during the six months leading up the treatment. We also shortened the length of the informed consent form, as requested. Our success with the Canadian IRB is an important milestone in our march toward the globalization of MDMA/PTSD research.