Australian Doctor in Legal Battle to Treat Patient with MDMA

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An Australian doctor fighting for permission to treat an extremely unwell patient with MDMA has taken his bid to court.

According to ABC News, this case — of a doctor seeking permission from the state to treat his patient with MDMA — is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.

Consultant psychiatrist Eli Kotler initiated legal action against the Victorian Department of Health, following their rejection of his application to treat his patient, a woman who cannot be named, with the drug also known as ecstasy.

Dr. Kotler’s challenge to the decision was heard in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court, which adjourned the hearing to early next year, ahead of an appeal.

Earlier this year, the psychiatrist was refused permission to treat the woman with MDMA, which under Australian law can only be used for medical research, scientific or teaching purposes.

Stefan Tulloch, acting chief officer of medicines and poisons regulation at the Department of Health stated in a letter to Dr. Kotler that there is insufficient data to establish the safe and effective use of Schedule 9 poison in clinical practise.

Greg Barns SC, representing Dr. Kotler told Magistrate Luisa Bazzani that his team would be calling expert witnesses from California and the United Kingdom to make their case that MDMA would be safe and efficacious to use therapeutically.

Kylie Evans, the barrister representing Victoria’s Health Department, told the court that her client will ask the court that their initial decision be upheld.

The case will return to court early next year.

Australia Already Considering MDMA Classification Change

In Australia, drugs and chemicals are classified in tiers that determine how accessible they are to the public. MDMA is currently in the second-highest tier, meaning it is a prohibited substance.

However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is currently considering downgrading MDMA to a controlled drug, which would allow its use for medical treatment in restricted clinical contexts.

The TGA’s decision is expected early next year. If the drug is downgraded, Dr. Kotler’s appeal will be rendered moot. A decision of the same ilk is expected on psilocybin, the main compound in ‘magic mushrooms.’

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said in an expert, independent review that MDMA and psilocybin had potential as medical treatments.

The review concluded that “MDMA and psilocybin may show promise in highly selected populations but only where these medicines are administered in closely clinically supervised settings and with intensive professional support.”

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