Therapists Trained for Israeli MDMA/PTSD Study; Revised Protocol Prepared for Ministry of Health

From January 23-27, 2011, MAPS Clinical Investigators Michael Mithoefer, M.D., and Annie Mithoefer, B.S.N., conducted a training course for therapists who will be conducting the treatment sessions in MAPS’ new Israeli study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. The training took place over five days, with the first three days in Tel Aviv in the basement of a house built by Rick Doblin’s great-grandfather in 1923. The therapists reviewed MAPS’ treatment manual of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and were familiarized with the study protocol. As part of the training, they also studied several videos of actual treatment sessions from our completed U.S. MDMA/PTSD study.

The last two days of the program took place at Be’er Ya’akov Mental Health Center outside Tel Aviv. During their visit, the study team met with hospital administrators, who have agreed to provide us with a dedicated area in a standalone building separate from the main facility for conducting the clinical sessions, including a separate bathroom and kitchen. Although the hospital itself dates back to the 1940s, it is currently undergoing several renovations and improvements. The grounds include orange groves and walking paths, and we are excited to have access to such a secure and comfortable site for conducting the sessions.

Building on our experience with our previous Israeli study, MAPS has determined that pairing traditionally trained psychiatrists with others with more direct experience working with altered states of consciousness is likely to produce a more effective therapeutic team. After this last meeting, the clinical team has decided to use three (rather than two) male/female co-therapist teams in order to increase enrollment rates and to provide more opportunities for therapists to learn from each other. The variety of expertise brought to the therapeutic sessions by these co-therapist teams should make them more effective at achieving positive treatment outcomes.

During the visit, the clinical team also fine-tuned the study protocol by adding the third co-therapist team, a secondary self-report measure of PTSD symptoms, and a measure of sleep quality. Although the original protocol was already approved by the Israeli Institutional Review Board (IRB), the revisions required us to resubmit it to the IRB. These revisions have been submitted to the IRB by the end of this week, which will review the protocol and forward it to the Israeli Ministry of Health (the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. FDA) for final approval. On April 6, the Ministry of Health will meet to discuss the protocol and inform MAPS about whether the study may proceed. Since we have already imported the MDMA from Switzerland into Israel for the previous study, getting the go-ahead from the Ministry of the Health will be the last step before we can initiate the new study.