WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a pilot study looking at whether the recreational hallucinogen Ecstasy can help terminally ill patients lessen their fears, quell thoughts of suicide and make it easier for them to deal with loved ones.
"End-of-life issues are very important and are getting more and more attention, and yet there are very few options for patients who are facing death," Dr. John Halpern, the Harvard research psychiatrist in charge of the study, said Monday.
The four-month study is expected to begin in early spring. It will test the drug's effects on 12 cancer patients from the Lahey Clinic Medical Center in the Boston area. The research is being sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Assn. for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that plans to raise $250,000 to fund it.
The FDA would not comment, but the study is the second approved by the FDA on Ecstasy use. South Carolina researchers are studying the effects of Ecstasy on 20 patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.