Psychedelic medicine is undoubtedly witnessing a powerful and bold revival in the modern day. As previously taboo compounds like psilocybin and LSD show promise as mental health medicines, some companies are already developing the next generation of psychedelic compounds. From innovative delivery methods to removing psychoactivity for immediate regulatory approval, the team at BetterLife Pharmaceuticals has bold plans in place to advance the next generation of psychedelic therapeutics. Here are three key takeaways from their April Psychedelic Capital presentation.
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Key Takeaway #1: BetterLife Pharma is Developing Novel 2nd Generation Psychedelic Medicines
While psychedelic compounds are indeed showing clinical efficacy in drug trials, major regulatory changes need to take place before these compounds, which are currently Schedule I (the most restrictive), will be available to the mainstream market. The BetterLife team is avoiding these regulatory roadblocks by crafting non-hallucinogenic psychedelic drugs; two of their notable drug candidates are explored further below.
One question often posed in this field is whether or not the psychedelic experience, or “trip”, is truly necessary to reap all the potential benefits these drugs have to offer us. Indeed, the “mystical experience” brought on by psychedelics has demonstrated therapeutic value as demonstrated by the riveting clinical trials in terminal patients dealing with end-of-life anxiety. However, the vast and rapidly expanding wealth of evidence exploring microdosing, which is the practice of regularly consuming sub-perceptual doses (usually 1/10th of a “trip” or hallucinogenic dose) of psychedelic drugs, strongly suggests that benefits may be reaped from psychedelic drugs without necessarily bringing on hallucinations. The BetterLife Pharma team is developing this next generation of psychedelic drugs and this is a big part of their molecular portfolio.
2-Bromo-LSD: Advancing a Non-Hallucinogenic form of LSD through the Pipeline
There are major advantages to creating non-hallucinogenic psychedelic medicine and advancing such therapeutics through the drug pipeline, especially if the use of Schedule I precursors and compounds can be completely avoided. Indeed, that’s exactly what the BetterLife team has been able to do with their novel compound, 2-bromo-LSD, a non-hallucinogenic form of LSD. The team has patents on getting around the use of any list 1 precursors and never use a Schedule 1 substance, thus completely avoiding this otherwise major hurdle in psychedelic drug development.
DHHB: Meeting the Need & Filling the Gaps in Benzodiazepine/Anxiolytic Addiction Treatment
Chief Psychedelic Officer of BetterLife Pharma, Patrick Kroupa, discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has created stressors for the global population and how, as a result, there is a massive increase in prescribing volumes of anxiolytic drugs (e.g. Xanax, Valium). Also known as benzodiazepines, these drugs quickly create a physiological dependency upon regular use in just weeks and are highly addictive. Currently, psychedelic drugs like Ibogaine are showing to be highly effective in opioid dependence and addiction treatment, but treatments for benzo dependence and addiction are still lacking. Kroupa discusses how their novel drug DHHB has impressive efficacy in both substitution therapy and in eliminating withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines. If the compound can indeed do for benzodiazepine addicts what ibogaine can do for opioid addicts, it’s bound to be a blockbuster drug.
Key Takeaway #2: The BetterLife Team is Highly Experienced in Psychedelics & Drug Development
One of the highlights from this presentation was definitely the fact that the team at BetterLife Pharma brings over 25 years of successful experience in pharmaceuticals and psychedelics. Chief Psychedelic Officer of BetterLife Pharma, Patrick Kroupa, was one of the founders of Clear Sky Recovery, a psychedelic clinic that utilizes ibogaine, a psychedelic shrub from West Africa, in the treatment of opioid addiction. Clear Sky is indeed one of the world’s leading ibogaine providers and the experience has offered Patrick robust insight into the realities of scaling a psychedelic clinic versus crafting successful drug candidates that will be able to reach the masses. Indeed, the team’s robust approach to psychedelic drug development is a clear hallmark of their expertise.
Kroupa mentioned that “by focusing on arriving at a take-home medication where the patient could potentially take the whole bottle of pills and not trip for three days”, the BetterLife team is advancing the next generation of psychedelic therapeutics through the drug development pipeline. Ultimately, the goal of BetterLife is to create a drug product that insurance companies in the United States will pay for—a worthy cause for those Americans that don’t have the benefit of universal healthcare like their Canadian counterparts. Also featured in this presentation was Justin Kirkland, Head of Psychedelic Chemistry & Synthesis and Ahmad Doroudian, CEO of BetterLife Pharma. Between their seasoned experience in pharmaceuticals and real-world expertise in psychedelics, this is definitely a team investors want to keep an eye on.
Key Takeaway #3: BetterLife Pharma is Developing Novel Mechanisms for Delivering Psychedelic Drugs
One of the most fascinating parts of BetterLife’s presentation was definitely their exploration of the novel mechanisms for delivering psychedelic drugs they’ve developed. Keeping in mind that diversion of scheduled drugs/controlled substances will be a concern of regulatory agencies, it was indeed interesting to learn of BetterLife’s plan to implant psychedelic drugs in patients. Through the use of “pulsatile release technology”, the team aims to deliver psychedelic drugs to a patient on a regiment (e.g. every third day). Through exploiting implant technology, the BetterLife team is able to completely prevent the diversion of these compounds and their novel release mechanism provides steady dosing as well. From utilizing “bioassays and weird science”, the BetterLife team is advancing their therapeutics down the path to IND and FDA approval. It will certainly be exciting to see the exciting developments that come out of this unique team’s drug development team.
A Look Ahead for BetterLife Pharma
Between their team’s robust experience and their advancement of novel psychedelic therapeutics through the drug development pipeline, the BetterLife Pharma team is undoubtedly poised for big success. By crafting good molecules backed by good science and clinical data and sophisticated, GMP manufacturing practices, the BetterLife team is indeed ushering in the new generation of psychedelic medicine. We’re grateful for their deep insights at our April 2021 Psychedelic Capital event and look forward to collaborating with their expert team in the future.