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IACM-Bulletin of 03 August 2003

UK: Further indications to be investigated by GW Pharmaceuticals

In an interview Geoffrey W. Guy, founder of GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, talked about further illnesses and symptoms, against which cannabis shall be tested by GW in future clinical trials.

GW is using three extracts, a high THC, a high CBD and a 50-50 mix extract. The company has about 130 employees and is producing about 5-6 tons of dried, herbal cannabis at present. It intends to produce about 10 tons within the next year. The clinical studies so far were focused on pain patients and patients with neurological disorder (multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury).

"There will be another wave of studies. We are particularly interested in the effects of cannabinoids in response to inflammation. … We have a phase II study in rheumatoid arthritis running at the moment. The beneficial effects of CBD are very clearly seen in our arthritis program. … We are moving on into inflammatory bowel, where what we know about antispasmodic effects will be applicable. … We are interested in malnutrition issues. Senile anorexia. Issues of air hunger (sleep apnea, for example). I'd like to move on to epilepsy fairly soon; that's the one area where I wish we'd made more progress. … We're working with a group in Brazil to look at schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We've just completed a small trial on glaucoma. Our interest in glaucoma is not strictly to drop the pressure. We're looking at the neuroprotective effects on the retina."

(Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser of 16 July 2003)

USA: 152 members of the House of Representatives against federal policy towards medical marijuana, but bill failed

On 23 July 2003 the House of Representatives rejected an bill aimed at stopping federal raids on patients who use marijuana and people who provide it to them in states that recognize cannabis as a medicine. Sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (Democrats) and Dana Rohrabacher (Republicans), the amendment would have forbidden the Justice Department (which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA) from spending money to close down clubs, or arrest patients or providers.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 273 to 152, which is closer than might have been expected. The vote in favour of a 1998 House resolution condemning state medical marijuana laws was 310 to 93. DEA's cruel and senseless campaign against the medicinal use of cannabis had obviously changed some minds in the House.

An article in the Reason Magazine noted, that "there is another way to look at this amendment," not as "an expression of sympathy for patients who use medicinal marijuana to make their lives more bearable, but as a modest step toward enforcing the Constitution. Strictly speaking, the amendment was redundant, since the Constitution does not authorize the DEA's raids on medical marijuana users and growers" in states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

(Sources: Reason Magazine of 23 July 2003, Drug Policy Alliance of 23 July 2003)

News in brief

Spain: Expert group of the government on cannabis
The Spanish federal government intends to set up an expert group that will explore the adoption of measures, that could include "a legislative modification", "to persecute" those who "send the message", that cannabis is harmless and beneficial. Doctors and others who talk about the benefits of cannabis are accused by the government to be responsible for an increase of young cannabis users. In an interview for El Mundo Dr. Ricardo Navarrete of the health centre San Andrés-Torcal in Malaga said that these proposals seem to "paranoid" and that "the increased use by young people has nothing to do with medical use". (Source: El Mundo of 23 July 2003)

Science: Neuroprotection and multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is regarded as a neurodegenerative disease that is caused by inflammation of the central nervous system. New research shows that mice, which do not possess cannabinoid-1 receptors, do much less tolerate inflammatory insults than normal mice, and that they develop substantial neurodegeneration following immune attack in an animal model of multiple sclerosis, the so-called experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). Authors conclude that "in addition to symptom management, cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other diseases." Contact to Dr. David Baker of the research group: D.Baker@ion.ucl.ac.uk. (Source: Pryce G, et al. Brain. 2003 Jul 22 [Electronic publication ahead of print].

Science: Inflammation and neuroprotection
Cannabinoids inhibit inflammation, but the mechanisms are not well understood. Earlier research has shown that cannabinoids inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). This new research shows that both CB1 and CB2 receptors modulate the release of a body's own (endogneous) blocker of IL-1, the so-called interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra). The IL-1ra is an important anti-inflammatory cytokine that blocks all known actions of IL-1. Authors conclude that their data "suggest a novel neuroprotective mechanism of action for cannabinoids in response to inflammatory or excitotoxic insults." Contact to Dr. Nancy Rothwell of the research group: nancy.rothwell@man.ac.uk. (Source: Molina-Holgado F, et al. J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 23;23(16):6470-4)

Canada: Health Canada
On 23 July 2003 the Health Ministry issued a 59-page manual on marijuana for health care professionals and a two-page summary for patients who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The department was forced to release a manual on how to use cannabis by the courts, but the press agency Canadian Press noted that "patients will get little practical advice about ingesting marijuana and lots of warnings against using it at all". The information is available at:
www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/ocma/whatsnew.htm. (Source: Canadian Press of 20 July 2003).

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