A Melbourne doctor who is fighting for permission to treat a severely unwell patient with the drug MDMA has taken his battle to court, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Australia.

Consultant psychiatrist Eli Kotler launched legal action after the Victorian Department of Health knocked back an application to treat the woman, who cannot be named, with the drug more commonly known as ecstasy.

Dr Kotler challenged that decision in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court, which adjourned the hearing to early next year ahead of an appeal.

Kylie Evans, the barrister representing Victoria’s Health Department, told the court that the outcome of the case would be significant.

“As far as we’re aware, this is the first such case that … will be heard in a court in Australia, seeking permission from the state to treat a patient with MDMA,” Ms Evans said.

In August this year, Dr Kotler was refused permission to treat the woman with MDMA, which currently cannot be used for anything other than medical research, scientific or teaching purposes.

“There is insufficient data to establish the safety and efficacy … with regards to safe use of a Schedule 9 poison in clinical practice,” Stefan Tulloch, the acting chief officer of medicines and poisons regulation at the Department of Health, wrote in a letter to the psychiatrist.

TGA already considering MDMA classification change

Greg Barns SC, who is representing Dr Kotler, told Magistrate Luisa Bazzani that his team would be calling two expert witnesses from California and the United Kingdom to make their case.

“The patient is quite unwell and has a range of mental health issues where it’s believed that MDMA would be safe and efficacious to use therapeutically,” Mr Barns said.

But the move will be opposed by the secretary of the Health Department, which knocked back the original application.

“The secretary will be submitting that the decision … ought to be affirmed by the courts,” Ms Evans said.

In Australia, drugs and chemicals are classified in tiers that control how easily they can be accessed by the public.

At the moment, MDMA is at the second-highest tier, which means that it is considered a prohibited substance.

But the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which regulates medicines, is considering downgrading MDMA and making it a controlled drug, which would allow it to be used for medical treatment under strict conditions.

The decision is expected early next year and, if the drug is downgraded, will render Dr Kotler’s appeal moot.

A decision is also expected in the same vein on psilocybin, which is the main compound in so-called magic mushrooms.

An independent expert review commissioned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration into the two drugs found that they had potential as medical treatments.

“We conclude that MDMA and psilocybin may show promise in highly selected populations but only where these medicines are administered in closely clinically supervised settings and with intensive professional support,” the review said.

The case will return to court next year.

View the original article here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-12/doctor-mdma-ecstasy-treatment-patient-court-bid/100614346