Psychedelic Medicine

While the term “psychedelic” might conjure up thoughts of tie-dye, flares, and rock music, psychedelics have come a long way— specifically, from recreational use at raging concerts to carefully monitored research and medical settings where their potential for mental health healing is studied closely.

In exciting news for the mental health world in particular, psychedelics are just beginning to make a splash in the prescription drug space.

Case in point: In March 2019, Spravato, a drug produced by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson consisting of esketamine (which is derived from ketamine) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment-resistant depression. This has been regarded as “the first major advance in the treatment of depression since the late 1980s.” 

For the millions suffering from depression, that’s a big deal. 

As you might have guessed, this new psychedelic drug is not alone on its path to market. 

In August 2017, the FDA granted “breakthrough therapy” status to study MDMA (also known as “ecstasy”) for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The “breakthrough therapy” designation means that the FDA “will expedite the review of the drug and potential approval.” 

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is currently in Phase 3 trials— the final phase before FDA approval.

Then, in October 2018, COMPASS Pathways, a London-based biotech company, received FDA breakthrough therapy designation for its study of psilocybin (aka “magic mushroom”) therapy in treatment-resistant depression. According to one analyst, U.S. sales of this compound alone could reach $108 million in 2025 (the expected commercial launch year of the drug) and $3.3 billion by 2031.

These treatments have enormous potential for medical use, so it’s no surprise that there are many psychedelic startups working on innovative treatments for mental health disorders. In September 2020, COMPASS Pathways became the first psychedelic medicine company to go public on a major US exchange. But, it won’t be the last. 

Here’s why you should consider adding psychedelics to your portfolio. 

What Is Psychedelic Medicine?

Psychedelics “are powerful psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes.” They include but are not limited to Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), Psilocybin or “Magic” Mushrooms, DMT/ Ayahuasca, Mescaline/ Peyote, MDMA (or ecstasy), 25I-NBOMe, better known as N-Bomb, Salvinorin A (or salvia), Phencyclidine (or PCP), Ketamine, and Dextromethorphan (or DXM). 

Psychedelics cause hallucinations and other sensory disturbances. In short, they work by “stimulating, suppressing, or modulating the activity of the various neurotransmitters in the brain.” While they stay in the body for a relatively short period of time, they can have long-lasting psychological effects. 

Psychedelics came into popular use in the 1960s and 1970s but were eventually made illegal, limiting researchers’ access to study them for medical use. LSD was outlawed in the U.S. in 1966, and MDMA was banned in 1985

It wasn’t until the 2000s that the FDA and the DEA began to approve psychedelic research again. Since then, psychedelics have made their way one by one to labs where they are proving their ability to treat mental health issues including depression, suicidal thoughts, PTSD and anxiety.

The advancement of psychedelics have everything to do with advances in science. According to Amanda Feilding, founder of the Beckley Foundation, which investigates psychoactive substances and advocates for global drug policy changes, “The combination of advancing neuroscientific knowledge, modern brain-imaging technology and psychedelics provides a unique microscope to the mind, allowing us to map changes in consciousness to changes in neuronal and physiological activity. This opens up a new universe in which we can explore novel pathways to treat many of our most intractable illnesses, and to expand our understanding of consciousness itself.” 

The more that scientists understand the brain, the greater the potential for psychedelics. 

More and more, the clinical community, regulators and investors alike are open to psychedelic treatments. This is especially true following legalization of medical cannabis, which formally recognized the drug’s therapeutic benefit. Cannabis is now only “fully illegal” in seven states. 

Despite their progress, however, psychedelics drugs are still considered Schedule I drugs, which are defined by the DEA as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” A schedule change remains a hurdle for all research firms hoping to bring psychedelics to the mainstream.

That said, prescription psychedelic drugs are likely to take a more expedited path to FDA approval for prescription use than more traditional counterparts, in part because humans have been consuming them for decades. 

Why Invest in Psychedelics?

The growing momentum for psychedelics is happening in parallel to an escalating mental health crisis worldwide. 

More than 250 million people worldwide are suffering from depression. And those numbers are only expected to get worse. 

In late June 2020, after the arrival of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and resulting global pandemic, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse, according to the Center for Disease Control. In another recent study that assessed 402 adult COVID-19 survivors, 55% presented a clinical score for at least one mental disorder, including anxiety (42%), insomnia (40%), depression (31%), PTSD (28%), and OCD (20%). 

Depression is a serious condition that “can dramatically affect a person’s ability to function and live a rewarding life,” according to the World Health Organization. “It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite; tiredness and poor concentration are common. Depression is a leading cause of disability around the world and contributes greatly to the global burden of disease.” 

Depression is linked to suicide, which is the cause of death for nearly 800,000 people every year. It’s the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

While depression and mental health issues are growing, they are hard to treat effectively. Psychedelics are offering the world new hope.

The excitement for the psychedelics market reflects that enthusiasm. According to a September 2020 report by US News, the estimated market size for psychedelics could be as large as $100 billion. In other words, as startups begin to successfully bring new psychedelic prescription therapies to market, there will be plenty of potential customers hoping for mental health help lined up at the door.

How to Invest in Psychedelic Medicine

As a broad and emerging industry, psychedelics are currently difficult for investors to access. There are only a few public companies in the space, such as COMPASS Pathways, but there are a number of associated firms that are set to benefit from the growth of psychedelic medicine. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are ETFs and mutual funds available to interested investors.

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This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]


Human Rights

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From climate change to women’s rights to anti-discrimination, human rights issues are more pervasive corporate issues than we might think about as we pour our cereal or brush our teeth in the morning. But, whether we think about them or not, human rights issues exist.

Human rights violations don’t always happen in isolation, but often occur in tandem with other environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing factors. For example, according to an interview in GreenBiz with Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, beyond environmental degradation, deforestation is strongly correlated with human rights abuses. These issues are more prevalent than one might think in the world of corporate social responsibility programs.

According to a March 2020 report by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), major banks and brands are failing to stop deforestation and protect human rights, despite public commitments to do so. This is in large part because the fast-moving consumer goods that they make, including non-durable goods such as packaged foods, beverages, toiletries, are strongly linked to deforestation. 

These brands include big names including Colgate-Palmolive, Ferrero, Kao, Mars, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Nissin Foods, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. The banks include Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Bank Negara Indonesia, CIMB, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, DBS, ABN Amro, and JPMorgan Chase. 

The report argues that these brands are complicit in deforestation and human rights abuses in their “sourcing of forest-risk commodities –– including palm oil, pulp, and paper.” (Note that in September 2020, many of these brands collectively launched the Forest Positive Coalition of Action, an initiative to end deforestation.)

How does the RAN report call for change to harmful deforestation and human rights practices? 

For one, it commends the follow through of many European and US banks and investors on their commitments not to finance companies that engage in these abuses. Investors have power to influence even the biggest business entities, and socially and environmental advocates are asking investors to use that power.  

Here’s what you should know about human rights in the modern world, and why you should consider them when building your portfolio.  

What Are Human Rights?

According to the UN, human rights “are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”

The UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed in 2011, have two primary goals: (1) “to reaffirm that governments have an obligation to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses” and (2) “to clarify that all companies have a responsibility to respect human rights.”  These principles provide actionable steps for companies and governments to meet their obligations in protecting and respecting human rights.

These principles are also important for investors. According to the Columbia Center of Sustainable Development’s Five-Pillar Framework, “a key component of sustainable international investment includes promoting and respecting human rights that might be affected by investments.” The UN’s Guiding Principles offer investors a framework from which to assess the human rights advocacy or abuses of the companies they invest in.  

Why Consider Human Rights When Investing?

ESG investing factors include human rights, and human rights investing has the power to make an impact. For example, divestment played an important role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. 

Beyond impact, as with other ESG priorities, there is mounting evidence that companies tend to benefit financially when they uphold human rights. So, human rights conscious investments are likely to be more successful. 

Business success is linked to good business practices for a variety of reasons. For one, “reputation is now recognized as a major source of business risk,” according to the 2018 report Good Business: The Economic Case for Protecting Human Rights

But, there are other reasons. Companies that value human rights tend to share a long-term view of success, which they execute over time. Beyond helping to promote worker and stakeholder relations, advocating for human rights also benefits from state-based economic incentives, including public procurement, export credit support, and trade incentives. A commitment to human rights also reduces litigation costs and positions companies in a favorable way as regulatory trends develop. 

In May 2020, the Investor Alliance on Human Rights released an Investor Toolkit on Human Rights. The toolkit provides a framework for investors to assess their investments based on human rights criteria.

But, aren’t companies busy with other things, especially under the stresses of a tumultuous economy? 

It’s quite the opposite. In the midst of a pandemic, companies are suddenly tasked with, in the words of The PRI, “protecting their employees, their suppliers and business partners, customers and the communities they serve,” and how they choose or choose not to do so will influence how they come out of the crisis. 

So, it’s not surprising that in September 2020, BlackRock and Vanguard launched four total new ESG ETFs that screen for human rights issues. These include iShares ESG Screened S&P 500 ETF (XVV), iShares ESG Screened S&P Mid-Cap ETF (XJH), iShares ESG Screened S&P Small-Cap ETF (XJR), and Vanguard ESG U.S. Corporate Bond ETF (VCEB). 

If we consider the global supply chain, human rights aren’t something so separate from our cereal or our toothpaste. For savvy, socially conscious investors, understanding whether the companies they invest in enforce or dismiss human rights with their corporate decisions should be a key factor for consideration.  

How to Invest in Human Rights

ETFs and mutual funds such as those mentioned above make investing with a clean conscience easier than ever. A search on Magnifi suggests there are a number of different ways for interested investors to support this part of the ESG landscape.

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Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today. 

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]


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