Anti-Addiction Drug 18-MC Begins Human Trials

By Paul Gaita 09/26/14

Derived from ibogaine, the new drug could open doors to more effective treatment.

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Savant HWP, Inc., a privately-owned pharmaceutical development company in San Carlos, Calif., announced on September 23 that they had begun human safety trials on 18-MC (18-methoxycoronaridine) as a treatment for many forms of addiction and compulsive behavior.

The trials, which were conducted by Savant’s South American partner, focused on single doses of 18-MC that were administered as part of a double blind, placebo-controlled study.

According to a press release from Savant HWP, the drug was reportedly “well tolerated” by the healthy test volunteers, prompting Savant co-founder, chairman and chief medical officer Scott Freeman to announce that “safety and dose-ranging studies are continuing, and we expect to present detailed results at medical meetings and in scientific publications at the conclusion of the trial.

The drug is derived from ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance that has been used for centuries by indigenous African people as medicine and as part of ritual ceremonies. More recently, ibogaine has been cited in the scientific and recovery communities as an effective tool in treating a myriad of addictions.

In 1996, researcher Stanley D. Glick from Albany Medical College and the University of Vermont, who is also Savant HWP’s scientific founder, synthesized the drug. His experiments with the drug on laboratory rats addicted to substances like cocaine, morphine, nicotine, and methamphetamine yielded positive results; a single dose appeared to reduce both withdrawal symptoms and cravings in the test subjects.

Until recently, human tests involving ibogaine have generated mixed results. While some test subjects reported a reduction in cravings, others suffered serious side effects, including extreme nausea, and in one instance, death. However, Glick’s rat trials showed that 18-MC produced none of the negative side effects experienced by some ibogaine users because it acts on a single brain receptor.

In 2012, Savant received a $6.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to support preclinical development of 18-MC for the treatment of cocaine addiction, which enabled the human safety trials. In addition to treating substance addiction issues, the company hopes that 18-MC will prove useful in reducing obesity rates, as well as providing relief for leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, a pair of maladies caused by parasites that affect between 300,000 and 1.6 million people worldwide.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.