In 1912, chemists at Merck were trying to develop new drugs to control bleeding that were not covered by a patent owned by their competitor Bayer. During this development, they synthesized MDMA as an intermediate in the preparation of one such drug, and disclosed it in two Merck patents granted in 1914.
After that, MDMA was not included in another patent application until 1989, when Yale and the University of Minnesota both filed applications on treating drug addiction and dependency—and included MDMA as a drug of abuse. The first patent filed on a therapeutic use of MDMA was not until 2003, the first of several applications by different entities on the use of MDMA to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. (A patent from 1977, also included below, covers use of the related compound MDA to relieve symptoms of arthritis and dermatitis.)
In 2010, Emory University filed an application covering methods of “improving the efficacy of psychotherapeutic treatment” by administering “an oxytocin releasing agent,” such as MDMA—the first patent application on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy (never granted). Since then, and especially starting in 2017, increasing numbers of applications have been filed on beneficial uses of MDMA. (Dozens continue to be filed on drug abuse and drug testing, but these we have not included, except a few covering “anti-abuse” MDMA formulations intended to be used therapeutically.)
Below, we have pulled together all of these MDMA-related patents and published patent applications that were filed in the U.S. or that later may be filed in the U.S. and become a U.S. patent (although you may observe just how hard it is to get a patent—of the 20 applications filed between 1989 and 2012 that reached a final decision, only 8 were ultimately granted).
It’s important to note that patent applications are kept secret for at least 18 months after filing. So if you came looking for one of the many applications recently announced by a company in the space, you won’t find those in our tracker just yet. But keep checking back—we’ll update this table whenever new MDMA-related applications become public.
Note: The applications and patents in the table include all U.S. and PCT filings with substantive claims to MDMA compositions, formulations, and methods of use (i.e., where MDMA is referenced more than merely incidentally). Except for the two German patents originally granted to Merck, applications or patents in other jurisdictions are not included. Where a PCT application has already entered prosecution in the U.S., only the U.S. application is included. “Priority date” refers to the earliest filing date on which an applicant can rely (typically, the filing date of a U.S. provisional application); it is used to determine who filed first and what public information qualifies as prior art.