A Republican lawmaker in Massachusetts introduced a bill that would both reschedule the psychedelic MDMA at the state level and cap possible therapy costs at $5,000 per session, though both developments are contingent on federal rescheduling of the drug.
The bill – HD 2137, by state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga – was introduced in January, apparently in response to reporting by The Washington Post and The New York Times regarding moves by the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which estimated that the possible cost for MDMA treatments could reach as much as $13,000-$15,000 per patient, per visit.
Though it’s a nonprofit, MAPS has been lobbying for federal psychedelics reform, and the Times reported in 2021 that many stakeholders expect the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve MDMA for therapeutic use as soon as this year.
In preparation for that possibility, MAPS launched a new corporate entity in 2014, the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation.
“Winning FDA approval would give MAPS at least six years of exclusivity to market its MDMA-guided treatments for PTSD, with a potential windfall of $750 million,” The Times reported in 2021, without much added context.
The exclusivity agreement is why Boldyga’s bill was celebrated by some psychedelics activists in Massachusetts, who alleged to Psychedelic Spotlight that MAPS is “lobbying for an exclusive monopoly over MDMA therapy,” as Bay Staters for Natural Medicine founder James Davies put it.
MAPS director Dr. Rick Doblin, however, told The Times in 2021 that any money made from MDMA therapy would be used to fund new research into psychedelic therapy, train new doctors, and lobby for further reforms.
“Our goal is mass mental health,” Doblin told The Times. “It’s not to amass a whole bunch of money.”
In addition, the Washington Post made clear in 2020 that the potential cost that activists are worried about – up to $15,000 per therapeutic session – is due to how expensive the treatments themselves remain – and because of obstacles getting such therapy covered by insurance.
That $15,000 price tag, The Post reported, included “42 hours of therapy, including three overnights,” as well as therapists working in “teams of two,” and found that clinicians are trying to bring costs down to make therapies more accessible for a wider patient base.