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IACM-Bulletin of 11 April 2004

IACM: 2004 Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine

CALL FOR PAPERS: The program committee would like to invite you to present your research at the IACM 3rd Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine in Oxford. You may submit your abstract electronically until June 15, 2004. If your abstract is accepted you will have free accommodation and will be invited to the evening dinner on 10 September.

IACM AWARD: During the Meeting the IACM will honour four persons for achievements regarding the re-introduction of cannabis and cannabinoids as medicines. We would like you to propose candidates and send your proposal by e-mail to Award2004@cannabis-med.org until June 15, 2004. The IACM Award Committee consisting of Vincenzo Di Marzo, Franjo Grotenhermen, Raphael Mechoulam, and Roger Pertwee will elect the Awardees.

REGISTRATION: Please register for the conference on the meeting web site. You may choose between overnight stays at Somerville College - in this case we will make the booking for you - or at a hotel in Oxford - in this case please, arrange your accommodations on your own.

More information on IACM Award, Call for Papers, registration and accommodation at
www.Oxford2004.org

Holland: Medical cannabis from pharmacies not more expensive for patients

Due to several reasons medical cannabis, which is available in Dutch pharmacies since September 2003 is cheaper for patients than cannabis bought in coffee shops. Around 70 per cent of health insurance companies reimburse the costs of the pharmacy cannabis in one form or another, sometimes partially, a survey of the Health Ministry conducted in March 2004 found. Also can the costs be distracted from the income for the income tax. Therefore, though the selling price of the official cannabis is higher, patients usually pay less.

The pharmacy price is about 8 € for SIMM 18 (13 % THC) and around 9 € for Bedrocan (18% THC). Coffee shop prices in September 2003 were 6.43 € on average. Among the reasons for the higher selling price of medical cannabis from the pharmacies are taxes paid by licensed growers, 24 hours delivery service, costs of laboratory controls, costs of information to patients and doctors, and 6 per cent taxes on the sold cannabis.

More in Dutch at:
www.cannabisbureau.nl/ned/beter_af.html)

(Sources: www.cannabisbureau.nl (partly in English), personal communication by Willem Scholten, Office of Medicinal Cannabis)

Spain: Catalonian pharmacists want pilot study on cannabis in pharmacies

The president of the Pharmacists Association of Barcelona, Joan Duran, proposed to the regional government of Catalonia to conduct a pilot study in the Catalonian pharmacies to make cannabis available for therapeutic purposes. The initiative is based on the Dutch model. Three years ago the Catalonian parliament unanimously asked the central government in Madrid to legalise the medical use of cannabis. The initiator of this decision was Agata, a Catalonian organization of women with breast cancer.

The president of the Federation of Spanish Pharmacists, Isabel Vallejo, expressed her support of the pilot project. She said, that whenever there is a substance, that can be used with therapeutic aims and produces benefits for the health of patients, this "must be investigated". Vallejo said that the pilot project "cannot be rejected because there are people that can benefit from it".

(Sources: Jano On-line y agencias of 31 March 2004, Diariomedico.com of 1 April 2004)

USA: Misapprehension may contribute to restraints of legislators on medical cannabis issue

Despite overwhelming public support for legal medical use of cannabis most politicians remain sceptical to translate the demand of voters into legislation. A new telephone poll conducted by Zogby in Vermont and Rhode Island, released March 29, sheds some light on this mystery. The poll asked 502 randomly selected Vermont and 501 Rhode Island citizens if they support legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, which resulted in 71 percent yes in Vermont and 69 percent yes in Rhode Island and is accordance with other state and national poll results consistently showing support levels ranging from 60 to 80 percent.

The new poll added a question that has not often been asked: "Regardless of your own opinion, do you think the majority of people in [Vermont or Rhode Island] support making marijuana medically available, or do you think the majority opposes making marijuana medically available?" In Vermont 38 percent thought the majority supports legal access, while 37 percent thought the majority opposes it and 25 percent was not sure. The correspondent figures for Rhode Island were 26 percent (majority in support), 56 percent (majority against) and 18 percent (not sure).

Citizens supported the medical use of marijuana by a clear margin, yet they think they are in the minority. There is reason to believe that legislators are under the same misapprehension and think that supporting the medical use of cannabis is a radical move, while most voters would welcome this move.

(Sources: MPP press release of 29 March 2004, AlterNet of 1 April 2004)

News in brief

IACM: Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics
The last issue of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, issue 4(1), is available online on the IACM website. Abstracts are available to the public, complete articles to members only.

IACM: Forum
On the German site of the IACM web site there is a new public forum for the discussion of topics surrounding the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids, including medical uses, side effects, intake and dosing, legal and political issues. There is fast growing interest in the forum. Forums in more languages may be installed if there are reliable and competent people who would administer and moderate the web site. Please write to: info@cannabis-med.org.

Science: Metastatic spreading
Researchers of the Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, found that the endocannabinoid anandamide has an inhibitory effect on the migration of tumour cells and lymphocytes. The effects on tumour cells were mediated by the CB1 receptor and the effects on CD8(+) T lymphocytes were mediated by CB2 receptors. Thus, cannabinoids that bind to the CB1 receptor would inhibit metastatic spreading. Researchers conclude that "specific inhibition of tumour cell migration via CB(1)-R engagement might be a selective tool to prevent metastasis formation without depreciatory effects on the immune system of cancer patients." (Source: Joseph J, et al. Cancer Immunol Immunother 2004 Mar 18 [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
A survey among people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was conducted by researchers of the University of Washington. There were 131 respondents, 13 of whom reported using cannabis in the last 12 months. Researchers write that "results indicate that cannabis may be moderately effective at reducing symptoms of appetite loss, depression, pain, spasticity, and drooling. Cannabis was reported ineffective in reducing difficulties with speech and swallowing, and sexual dysfunction." (Source: Amtmann D, et al. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2004 Mar-Apr;21(2):95-104.)

Science: Parkinson's disease
The majority of Parkinson's disease patients undergoing levodopa therapy develop disabling motor complications (dyskinesias) within 10 years of treatment. Stimulation of cannabinoid receptors, to which binds THC is emerging as a promising therapy to alleviate levodopa-associated dyskinesias. Researchers investigated possible mechanisms in animal experiments. Results indicate that a deficiency in endocannabinoid transmission may contribute to levodopa-induced dyskinesias and that these complications may be alleviated by activation of CB1 receptors. (Ferrer B, et al. EUR J Neurosci 2003 Sep;18(6):1607-14.)

Science: Drug policy ineffective and harmful
An article in Econ Journal Watch analysed the attitudes of economists towards current drug policies and comes concluded: "First, most economists found the current policy to be somewhat ineffective, very ineffective, or harmful. Second, most economists agree that the current policy should be changed. Third, most economists agree that the policy should be changed in the general direction of liberalization." The article by Mark Thornton is available online at www.econjournalwatch.org (Source: Thornton M. Econ Journal Watch 1(1): 82-105.)

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