A newly-signed agreement between the University of Exeter, Devon Partnership NHS Trust and Awakn Life Sciences will assess NHS readiness for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
The recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will bring together researchers at the University with the NHS local addiction services and Awakn Life Sciences, a company developing and delivering psychedelic medicines and therapies to treat various addiction disorders.
The partnership between the three groups will investigate how to enhance the evidence base for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy as an alternative treatment for depression patients who have not responded to treatment, and Alcohol Use Disorder within the NHS. It will also assess how best to accelerate approval for the use of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy to treat Alcohol Use Disorder at scale.
One of the projects in the MOU is to progress the recent phase II study into a phase III trial. Led by the University of Exeter, the phase II trial results will soon be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
In the study, researchers randomly allocated people to one of four treatment arms to explore the combined use of low-dose ketamine and psychotherapy as a treatment for alcoholism. The method of use for ketamine developed in this trial, which Awakn has exclusively licensed, has strongly indicated in a clinical trial to be more effective at treating Alcohol Use Disorder than any other currently available treatments.
Professor Celia Morgan, of the University of Exeter, said: “The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, with Devon Partnership NHS Trust and Awakn, marks the beginning of a journey in building awareness of the efficacy and sustainability of ketamine-assisted therapies.
“At the University of Exeter, we’re leading the way in clinical trials of combined psychological and pharmacological interventions, with experience of novel compounds such as MDMA and ketamine.
“We’re passionate about working with external organisations, recognising that through collaboration, we can strengthen our research, and broaden and deepen its impact.”
Tobit Emmens, Research Director at Devon Partnership Trust (DPT), said: “We’re really excited about this opportunity to work with Awakn Life Sciences and the University of Exeter.
“As a research-active Mental Health NHS Trust this is a really positive step forward to improving treatment options for people with addictions, and for those with treatment-resistant depression.”
There are currently six reported private clinics operating in the UK which offer ketamine assisted therapy, charging around £6000 for a course of low-dose treatments and talking therapy. As ketamine is licensed to be used by doctors as an anaesthetic it can be prescribed off-licence by private clinics, however some health experts have warned that a lack of updates to guidance on patient monitoring could lead to a ‘wild west’ of care, and a two-tier system, leaving NHS patients unable to access ketamine therapy.
Anthony Tennyson, Awakn’s chief executive officer, said: “The signing of the MOU is an important milestone as mental health issues continue to escalate globally.
“As we push towards our goal of delivering this novel treatment to patients across the UK, Europe and the world, we are excited to lay the groundwork with Devon Partnership NHS Trust and the University of Exeter, to increase access for psychedelics to treat addiction and more.
“By collaborating, Awakn can further accelerate the development and delivery of psychedelic therapeutics for those in need of alternative treatments from the current standard of care.
“We are making strides towards ketamine-assisted therapies being adopted into mainstream clinical use.”