Depression in the US Costs $362 Billion, Psychedelic Medicine May Be the Answer
December 15th, 2021
News, Top News
What used to be called depression and then clinical depression is now called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and it is a pervasive problem today. The numbers cited are staggering and alarming. One study pegged the economic burden caused by adult depression in the United States at $362 billion as of 2018, an increase of 38% from 2010. A study from 2020 estimated the depression footprint was three times as prevalent during the initial stages of the pandemic as it had been previously. The World Health Organization estimates about 280 million people are suffering from it today.
In the face of such a problem, drug companies and therapists have been scrambling to find more effective treatments for the disease. One of the most promising areas of research is the use of psychedelics, like LSD and psilocybin, as a therapeutic agent for MDD.
However, there is one company that is taking this approach a step further. BetterLife Pharma Inc. (CSE: BETR) (OTCQB: BETRF), an emerging biotech company focused on the development and commercialization of cutting-edge treatment for mental disorders and viral infections, has developed a synthesized version of LSD that will offer medicinal solutions without the hallucinatory side effects.
MDD and the Treatment Gap
As more people suffer from this disease and it becomes ubiquitous, there is still a disconnect between the disease and the treatments. According to Mental Health America, over half of adults suffering from mental illness do not receive treatment. Over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any treatment, and only 27% of those youth who do receive treatment are getting consistent care. There is a major gap in diagnosis and subsequent shortfall in treatment.
Psychedelics are moving more into the mainstream,but one question remains persistent. How should psychedelics be safely administered? As discussed in a recent Nature article on the topic, clinical trials are extremely controlled and conducted by experienced scientists, researchers, and doctors. What if treatments get approved and they are used in less controlled situations? There can also be a risk of a psychoactive reaction to the use of psychedelics.
Concerns like these could lead to regulatory caution, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the benefit for patients. They could also lead to depressed people fearing and avoiding therapies that involve psychedelics.
But what if the benefits of psychedelics could be obtained without the unwanted side effects? That is BetterLife Pharma’s mission.
BetterLife’s Unique Approach
BetterLife took a discovery from back in 1957 and updated it for the modern world. LSD was first synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938. After experiencing the hallucinations from the compound directly, he spent years looking for compounds that acted on the same receptors as LSD but did not make people hallucinate. In 1957, he and fellow researcher Franz Toxler produced a derivative of LSD called 2-Bromo-LSD.
This pair of scientists was looking for compounds that could be made into anti-inflammatory and anti-migraine drugs. 2-Bromo-LSD fit the bill with its ability to block unwanted serotonin receptors. Not much more research was done at the time, but a study published in 2010 showed the compound held promise for the treatment of cluster headaches.
It is not easy to conduct experiments and trials with a Schedule 1 controlled drug. Herein lies the advantage of 2-Bromo-LSD over its hallucinogenic parent – it is not a Schedule 1 controlled substance. BetterLife has developed a synthesized version of 2-Bromo-LSD that does not rely in any way on the availability of LSD itself, thereby removing a major obstacle for its research, development, and commercialization.
The company’s approach also means that its synthesized compound, called BETR-001, is protected under patent law. BetterLife has applied for patent protection for its composition, synthesis, and method of use of BETR-001, to cover potential treatments of depression, anxiety, PTSD, cluster headaches, migraines, and neuropathic pain.
Where the Company is Headed
BetterLife has been advancing its understanding of how BETR-001 works through preclinical observation and tests in advance of an anticipated IND (Investigational New Drug) Submission and then a clinical trial program. The most recent promising results came from its work in conjunction with Carleton University’s Department of Neuroscience. Researchers found that depressed mice, exhibiting behaviors such as reduced grooming and exploratory activity, responded very well when treated with BETR-001.
Other recent results confirmed the compound exhibits no hallucinogenic properties, and acts on receptors linked to both depression and neuropathic pain. Look for BetterLife to continue to build its case in preparation for an IND filing and the commencement of clinical trials.
The company is also in the pre-clinical phase with a compound based on magnolia bark extracts for the treatment of benzodiazepine dependence, anxiety, and spasticity and is conducting Phase 2 trials for a novel interferon-based treatment of COVID-19. Keep an eye out for more developments on all fronts as BetterLife Pharma advances its research in all three areas.
BetterLife Pharma is focused on developing and commercializing compounds to treat neurological and neuro-psychiatric disorders as well as viral infections.
Interested readers are encouraged to contact the company via Manager of Investor Relations David Melles, at David.Melles@blifepharma.com.
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