1999: NYU Ibogaine Conference

1999: NYU Ibogaine Conference

Original Message

There will be a Conference on Ibogaine at NYU School of Medicine on November 5 & 6, 1999. Perhaps some of you would be interested in attending. You can view the Conference web page, which includes the Conference Program and participants, a review of the literature, and a downloadable registration form at http://www.med.nyu.edu/Psych/ibogaineconf/

Below is a brief description of the Conference. Feel free of course to forward the announcement below to anyone you think would be interested.

The Conference on Ibogaine will be held at the New York University School of Medicine on November 5 & 6, 1999. The Conference web page, which includes a downloadable registration form is at URL: http://www.med.nyu.edu/Psych/ibogaineconf/

It will be the first meeting to be devoted to the subject of ibogaine to be held at a major US academic medical center. Participants will include Frank Vocci, Director of NIDA’s Medications Development Division, leading ibogaine researcher Stanley D. Glick, James W. Fernandez, the anthropologist who researched the ceremonial use of Ibogaine in Africa, and others representing the basic and clinical neurosciences, the FDA, NIDA, the pharmaceutical industry, ethnography, and sociology as well as the informal treatment scene.

Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid derived from the bark of the root of the African shrub Tabernanthe iboga, which has a history of use as a medicinal and religious ceremonial agent in West Central Africa, that has been alleged to have efficacy as a treatment for substance dependence. Ibogaine has a novel mechanism of action that is different from other existing pharmacotherapeutic approaches to addiction, and is extremely significant from a scientific perspective as a paradigm for understanding the neurobiology of addiction, and the development of future CNS medications. A recent paper appearing in the scientific literature describes the use of ibogaine for detoxification from heroin in a series of 33 cases [Alper, K R, Lotsof, HS, Frenken, GMT, Luciano, DJ, and Bastiaans, J (1999).”Treatment of acute opioid withdrawal with ibogaine”. American Journal on Addictions, 8, 234-242.]

Ibogaine is not presently an approved treatment option in the U.S. As a naturally occurring plant alkaloid, on a patent that is close to expiration, and a mechanism of action that is unknown, ibogaine has not been attractive to the pharmaceutical industry and remains a quintessential orphan drug development project. However, the demand of the addicts themselves has resulted in the advent of a distinctive unofficial treatment network, which has provided ibogaine treatment in non-medical settings such as an apartment or hotel room. The experience appears to provide evidence for ibogaine as a potentially cost-effective clinical approach, well adapted to environments where resources are limited and there is a pressing need for clinical services for heroin addicts. In the present era of growing patient driven interest in “alternative medicine”, an awareness of why individuals chose to use ibogaine could be useful in accessing hidden populations presently unavailable to more conventional treatment, and in optimizing the clinical milieu of present conventional treatment settings.

In the public sector the major economic incentive for the development of addiction treatment is the saved costs associated with preventing medical morbidity, crime, HIV, or hepatitis. In the private sector, decisions are based on weighing the expense of development against the expected profit, and not the magnitude of saved costs to society. In the case of a theoretically interesting drug with a limited profit potential and significant developmental expense, the private sector’s weighting of costs and long term incentives can appear to be irrational from the larger standpoint of society.

Topics to be covered include ibogaine’s mechanism of action, safety and efficacy, interaction with memory and neurophysiology, and ethnographic and policy perspectives. The proposed Conference presenters have been notably enthusiastic, and have accumulated significant new data for what promises to be an exciting and important Conference.


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