June 20, 2024

Pulse Bliss

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West Australian company Emyria has received Therapeutic Goods Administration approval for its treatment, which also has the backing of Andrew Forrest’s Tattarang

The West Australian company, which received $5 million from Rich Lister Andrew Forrest’s investment arm Tattarang in 2021, earlier this month received authorised prescriber status from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

That will allow its specialists to offer the MDMA treatment to patients outside a trial environment in what the company’s non-executive chairman, Greg Hutchinson, described as a world first for a community-based service.

Dr Winlo said the next big step for the ASX-listed company would be to prove to major health insurers the viability of the MDMA treatment for patients suffering from PTSD, which is estimated to affect close to 1 million Australians.

Emyria chief executive Michael Winlo says qualities that make MDMA an attractive party drug also prove a helpful adjunct to psychotherapy. Trevor Collens

“We’re talking about a therapy that appears to have a high rate of remission, appears to be very durable against a mental health challenge where there really hasn’t been great outcomes, and there’s still a high percentage of patients who just don’t respond to current treatments,” he said.

The treatment typically involves a patient taking two doses of pharmaceutical MDMA under the supervision of Emyria clinical staff and embarking on an eight-hour therapy session.

Emyria lead psychiatrist Jon Laugharne, who has conducted some of the Perth MDMA treatments, said he had been amazed by patient responses to the drug.

“It seems like the medication enables them to get into a brain state where they can almost do their own therapy, and you’re just giving them pushes and prods,” he said.

“The medication opens up this sort of neuro-plastic bubble for a few days. New connections begin to be made and so you’re trying to set them on that trajectory over the next few days.”

Australia last year became only the second country to approve the use of psychedelic therapies, which Dr Laugharne said was relatively unexpected.

“We didn’t anticipate that Australia would be in the position it is now following the TGA decision last year. It meant that we could be applying to use this as a regular treatment rather than just a trial,” he said.

The company is also working with the University of Western Australia to tailor MDMA to better suit specific treatments.

“It’s looking at the molecule and making some changes, adding bits, removing bits to the actual structure … it’s a very nice scaffold to work with, so we can tune the selectivity of the molecule for specific neurotransmitters,” Dr Winlo said.