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Psilocybin Produces Comparable Results as Common Medication for Treating Depression

April 15, 2021

A Phase II clinical trial conducted in London found that in a select group of patients, doses of psilocybin produced comparable antidepressant effects as escitalopram, a commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of depression.

Findings from the study were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Sana Symposium steering committee members Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD, and Rosalind Watts, DClinPsy, were among 10 authors on the study.

“The results of this study provide persuasive evidence that psychedelic-assisted therapies represent a viable treatment option for depression,” Field Trip Health executive chairman Ronan Levy said in a statement emailed to AP. “The study demonstrates that psilocybin was as effective and as safe as conventional antidepressants and, in fact, was favorable relative to antidepressants across most measures. In other words, psilocybin is as good or better than antidepressants.”

A total of 59 patients were divided into two groups—30 for psilocybin and 29 in an escitalopram group. The primary outcome measured was a change in patients’ baseline scores on the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomology-Self Report (QIDS-SR-16) scale after 6 weeks. The mean changes on the QIDS-SR-16 from baseline to week 6 were comparable—an 8.0-point reduction for psilocybin patients and a 6.0-point reduction for escitalopram patients (lower scores indicate lower reported levels of depression). Among secondary outcomes, 70% of psilocybin patients reported a “response” (a score reduction greater than 50%) compared to 48% of escitalopram patients. “Remission” (defined as a score of less than or equal to 5) after week 6 was reported by 57% of psilocybin patients vs. 28% of escitalopram patients.

The authors noted that secondary outcomes lacked correction for multiple comparisons, and that larger and longer trials are needed.

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