Something strange happened yesterday. Psychedelics unicorn Compass Pathways released data for the largest clinical trial ever conducted of a psilocybin drug. Not only did the drug seem to work, but the heavily anticipated data were “breathtaking” in the words of Compass’ CEO. Immediately, the company’s publicly traded shares dropped 16%. Including the day prior, it was more like 28%.
Why did this happen? There may be a couple of related factors. First, the trial data contained some problematic features, which I’ll address below. Second, and more interestingly, unrealistic expectations likely played a role. Many people believe that psychedelic drugs are or could be miraculous– that these drugs have inherent capacity to cure a variety of physical, mental and spiritual ills. Compass’ 2B trial suggests otherwise. It suggests that Compass may simply have contrived a useful therapy.
Backing up a bit, the disorder targeted by Compass is treatment-resistant depression. The therapy regime is a single dose of synthesized psilocybin (COMP360), paired with psychological support from specially trained therapists. I’ve explained before that treatment-resistant depression is a formidable disease. Around 100 million individuals suffer from this affliction worldwide; and “treatment resistant” means that nothing works– not antidepressants, not psychological counseling, not even