As increasing numbers of U.S. states have legalized both medical and adult-use cannabis, another set of Schedule 1 controlled substances – psychedelics – has begun to emerge from the shadows. Psychedelics such as psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and ayahuasca were designated along with cannabis as Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Recently, several U.S. cities, including Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California, have decriminalized possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and plants having psychedelic properties. In February 2020, the Washington D.C. Board of Elections voted to advance an initiative to decriminalize possession of plants and fungi containing psilocybin and other psychedelic agents. As was the case for cannabis, biomedical research into psychedelics ground nearly to a halt following the Schedule 1 designation. But, over the past 10 to 15 years, researchers at both universities and in the private sector have turned back to both cannabis and psychedelics as possible therapies for disorders that are intractable to standard pharmaceutical treatments. In 2019, FDA approved esketamine, a compound from a family of compounds known to have hallucinogenic effects, for treatment-resistant depression. As has been the case for cannabis, the renewed interest in psychedelics has brought with it an increase in patenting activity. Even though legalization of psychedelics has lagged behind that of cannabis, legal wrangling over patents covering psychedelics has not, as demonstrated by recent developments in the area of psilocybin-based therapeutics.
Psilocybin is a tryptamine alkaloid found in a number of fungal species, also known as “magic mushrooms.” The psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties of such fungi have been a part of traditional religious rituals of indigenous cultures in Central and South America for centuries. In the 1950s, scientists at Sandoz Ltd., isolated psilocybin from fungi. The first US patents covering psilocybin issued to Sandoz Ltd. in 1965: U.S. Patent No. 3,183,172, “Obtaining Psilocybin and Psilocin from Fungal Material” and U.S. Patent No. 3,192,111, “Method of Inducing Therapeutic Tranquilization with Psilocybin and Psilocin.” Continue reading Patent protection of psychedelic therapeutics: a page from the cannabis playbook?