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Bipartisan Congressional Lawmakers Tell VA To Prepare Plan For MDMA-Assisted Therapy As FDA Considers Approving The Psychedelic

Bipartisan congressional lawmakers are asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to produce a plan to begin providing MDMA-assisted therapy for veterans as soon as the psychedelic is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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In a letter sent to VA Under Secretary Shereef Elnahal on Tuesday, Reps. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY), Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and seven other members said FDA could approve alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as MDMA “as soon as this summer,” demanding planning on VA’s part.

“We’re concerned that if VA is not prepared to implement emerging psychedelic-assisted therapies when they become available, veterans will be left to navigate providers outside VA who may not have the specialized expertise in addressing their unique needs and the relevant military context of their trauma,” they wrote. “The potential lack of in-house capacity at the VA could threaten the mental health of our nations’ veterans and carries significant cost implications for VA.”

FDA agreed to review MDMA-assisted therapy as a potential treatment option in February, and the application was granted priority status. The agency set a target date for determination by August 11.

In January, meanwhile, VA issued a request for applications to conduct in-depth research on the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD and depression.

A House committee separately approved a GOP-led bill last week requiring VA to notify Congress if any psychedelics are added to its formulary of covered prescription drugs. VA came out against the legislation, arguing that it’s “unnecessary.” But in general, the department has been receptive to calls to explore the potential of psychedelic substances.

“We are encouraged by VA’s commitment to further research, but remain concerned about the implications of FDA approval of MDMA-assisted therapies without a plan in place at VA to ensure these treatments are available to veterans through VA and that there are adequate training initiatives to ensure proper staffing levels once these therapies are approved,” the lawmakers said in their new letter.

“We respectfully request that you produce VA’s implementation plan that would be deployable as soon as this novel treatment option is approved for clinical use,” they said.

Specifically, that plan should address care model details, the implementation timeline, locations for in-house administration of MDMA, staff training and more. The legislators are asking VA to produce the report by July 1.

Beside McGarvey and Luttrell, signatories on the letter include Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chris Deluzio (D-PA), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and others.

“The effects of emerging therapies for our veterans have been groundbreaking, and I’m proud to be a leader on pushing forward this innovative tool into the proverbial toolbox, especially while moving away from opioids,” Luttrell said in a press release.

“As the FDA is finally playing ball to move towards approving these therapies, it’s critical we ensure the VA has an implementation plan and can effectively and efficiently treat veterans,” the congressman, who has experienced firsthand the transformative effects of ibogaine and 5‐MeO‐DMT to treat trauma he incurred in combat, said.

McGarvey said “VA is the leader in mental health care for veterans, and its providers’ specialized knowledge in treating issues such as combat trauma and military sexual trauma is unmatched by any other healthcare system in this country.”

“We want to be prepared to support the VA in leading the nation through expanded research and clinical implementation of this novel care model, ensuring veterans receive access to the highest quality mental health care available,” he said.


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