The drug, derived from the root of a central African plant called iboga, had been used for centuries by the Bwiti people of Gabon and Cameroon, as part of a tribal initiation ceremony. The total alkaloid extract of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, which also contains all the other iboga alkaloids and thus has only about one-fifth the potency by weight as standardized ibogaine hydrochloride.
Currently, pure crystalline ibogaine hydrochloride is the most standardized formulation. It is typically produced by the semi-synthesis from voacangine in commercial laboratories. There is also a synthetic derivative of ibogaine, 18-methoxycoronaridine.
Excerpts from BBC Article
Howard Lotsof's early campaign had little success and ibogaine was banned in the US, along with LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, in 1967.
They began working together and in 1995 secured full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate its potential in humans. But these tests cost millions of dollars, and Mash applied for five separate public grants but each one was declined.
Usually, this money would come from big pharmaceutical companies but drugs like ibogaine offer little potential for profit. It only has to be taken once, unlike conventional treatments for heroin addiction such as methadone which is a substitute and addictive itself.
"One very cynical reason they are not being developed is that there is no patent on these drugs anymore so there is no pharmaceutical company involvement," says Ben Sessa.
Pharmaceutical companies make money by patenting new chemicals but ibogaine is a naturally occurring substance and is difficult to secure a patent on.