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IACM-Bulletin of 31 March 2002

Science: THC effective in Tourette-Syndrome

A clinical study conducted at the Medical School of Hannover (Germany) and published in the current issue of Pharmacopsychiatry demonstrated that a single dose of THC reduces symptoms of Tourette-Syndrome.

Under the guidance of Dr. Kirsten Mueller-Vahl 12 adult TS patients received THC (5, 7.5 or 10 mg) in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design. Patients received either a single dose of oral THC first or placebo first on two days separated by 4 weeks before they were crossed over to receive the other treatment.

THC resulted in a significant improvement of symptoms. At the end of the study nine patients assessed the THC treatment day overall more positive than the placebo day. Three patients experienced the placebo day more positive. No serious adverse reactions occurred. Blood pressure and pulse did not change significantly. Five patients experienced mild adverse reactions, lasting 1 to 6 hours. There was a significant correlation between tic improvement and maximum blood plasma concentration of 11-OH-THC.

Gilles de la Tourette-Syndrome (Tourette-Syndrome, TS) is a complex neurological disorder characterized by multiple motor tics (sudden movements) and one or more vocal tics. Another six-week-study with 24 patients that has been completed in the meantime confirmed the results of this earlier study.

(Sources: Mueller-Vahl K, et al. Treatment of Tourette-Syndrome with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): a randomized crossover trial. Pharmacopsychiatry, April 2002. Personal communication of Kirsten Mueller-Vahl)

Science/Spain: First clinical study of THC for the treatment of cancer

A group of Spanish researcher started the first clinical study of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer at the Hospital of La Laguna (Tenerife). The objective of the phase I-II trial is to evaluate the effects of the main active compound of cannabis, THC, on glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant brain tumour, for which there is currently no effective treatment. The study will be also the first study to investigate intracranial application of THC, an application directly into the brain.

Two years ago the team of Dr. Manuel Guzmán, of the Complutense University of Madrid had demonstrated that THC and a synthetic cannabinoid induced a remarkable regression of malignant gliomas in rats, completely destroying the tumours in a third of the treated animals. Dr. Luis González Feria, neurosurgeon of the La Laguna's Hospital, will lead the clinical study.

It will start with five patients. If the treatment is tolerated well additional nine patients will be added, divided into three groups that receive three different doses. Since the glioblastoma is a very aggressive tumour, researchers do not expect to cure the patients but hope to increase survival. Patients usually die within six to eight months after diagnosis. THC will be administered for two to eight weeks and doses will depend on tolerance. Those patients will be selected whose tumours are accessible by means of surgery. The study will last three years.

(Source: Reuters of 25 March 2002)

USA: News on medical cannabis initiatives and bills

Washington DC: A federal judge's decision could pave the way for supporters of legalizing marijuana in Washington DC for medical purposes to place the matter before city voters this November. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on 28 March overturned a federal law that had blocked District of Columbia residents from putting the issue on the ballot. The law was enacted by Congress 1998, after district residents voted to legalize marijuana for medical use. (Sources: New York Times of 29 March 2002, Associated Press of 30 March 2002)

Vermont: By a vote of 82 to 59 the House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow victims of debilitating diseases like cancer or AIDS to treat symptoms with cannabis, if they have a recommendation by a doctor. Governor Howard Dean, Democrat who strongly opposes the bill, announced that he would try to block the bill in the Senate. (Sources: Associated Press of 15 March 2002, New York Times of 16 March 2002).

Maryland: The House of Representatives voted 80 to 56 for a bill that would create a court defence for people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Under the measure, if defendants can prove to a judge or jury that they used marijuana exclusively for medical reasons, they would be subject to a $100 fine, instead of the current penalty -- a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The proposal would still be subject to scrutiny in the Senate. (Source: Washington Post of 26 March 2002)

Until now, eight states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and the state of Washington -- allow severely ill residents to use cannabis with prior approval from a physician.

News in brief

Science/UK: Driving
A single glass of wine impairs driving ability more than smoking a cannabis cigarette. These are the findings of a major new study by the Transport Research Laboratory in Crowthorne (UK). They confirm the results of a preliminary study more than a year ago. The study also found that drivers on cannabis tended to be aware of their intoxicated state, and drove more cautiously to compensate their impairment. (Source: New Scientist of 19 March 2002)

France: Prime Minister Jospin
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said that a cannabis joint smoked at home would be less bad than alcohol behind the wheel. Health Minister Bernard Kouchner recently said that alcohol and tobacco would cause much more harm than cannabis. (Source: AFP of 25 March 2002)

Germany: Green Party
The German Green Party supports the legalisation of cannabis, according to their new program passed by the party congress in March in Berlin. "The current drug policy of general criminal persecution of users has failed," the new program says. (Source: sda of 16 March 2002)

UK: Police survey
Half of police officers questioned anonymously admitted that they had taken cannabis at some time in their lives. Over half also believed that cannabis legislation harmed relations between police and young people. (Source: The Times of 16 March 2002)

Science: Neuroprotection
Results of cell studies strongly suggest that the cannabinoid-1 receptor (CB1) is not involved in the cellular antioxidant neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids. (Source: Marsicano G, et al. J Neurochem 2002 Feb;80(3):448-56)

Science: Cerebral blood flow
Memory-related regional cerebral blood flow was compared in frequent marijuana users and non-using control subjects after more than 26 hours of abstention. Memory-related blood flow in marijuana users showed decreases in prefrontal cortex and increases in memory-relevant regions of cerebellum. (Source: Block RI, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2002 May;72(1-2):237-50)

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