LITTLETON, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado biosciences company is hoping that one day patients with anxiety will be able to get a prescription from their doctor to microdose psychedelic mushrooms, pick it up at the local pharmacy and have it covered by insurance.
Joel Stanley is the CEO of Ajna BioSciences in Littleton. He says the company received a research and development license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and they are using their U.S. Food and Drug Administration-registered lab to try and create a standardized product that can be used for microdosing and put through clinical trials.
“People are self-medicating with it out there in the black and gray markets, and they don’t really know what they are getting,” Stanley said.
The microdose would use very small amounts of psilocybin extracted from the mushrooms to treat anxiety, but not enough to feel any psychedelic effects.
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“The microdose, it’s really far more like a daily-use antidepressant, only this one is natural, and we believe even safer,” Stanley said.
Human trials are scheduled for later this year, with the hopes of eventually securing FDA approval, although that could take years.
“It is important for us to provide an option that has clinical science behind it, so doctors can get behind it, so insurance can cover it for people in the future,” Stanley said.
His family has a history with plant-based products. Joel is one of seven brothers who started Charlotte’s Web in Colorado Springs, which was one of the early CBD companies. The company became famous when its product helped patients like young Charlotte Figi with seizures.
Now Joel has started this new company, and some local psychologists are optimistic.
“Psilocybin is truly a breakthrough treatment,” said Dr. Elizabeth Eastman, a clinical psychologist who has several patients who have microdosed mushrooms.
“Many have chosen to actually step off of antidepressants, antianxiety medications, to just use microdosing alone, and have found it to be very beneficial,” Dr. Eastman said.
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But she knows not everyone agrees. “It is controversial, I think because it’s been a pretty sticky history that we are just trying to clarify now,” she said.
The clinical trials will offer new information about efficacy and risks.
Dr. David Kroll, a professor at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy, says right now psilocybin is listed as a schedule one drug with no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse.
“So, it is a risky proposition for these companies, but the clinical trials that have come out to date have been so promising that these companies have been able to acquire investors,” Kroll said.
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