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IACM-Bulletin of 06 February 2005

Spain: Catalonia is planning to make cannabis available on prescription in a pilot study

Catalonia, a region in the northeast of Spain with the capital Barcelona, is planning to make cannabis available on prescription to the seriously ill in a pilot study, an official of the regional health authorities said on 1 February.

The project, which still has to be approved by the national Ministry of Health in Madrid, would dispense the drug through four hospitals and 60 pharmacies to patients. "We will start with a pilot programme for some chronic diseases," Catalan health councillor Marina Geli told journalists.

The drug, which is illegal in Spain, would be dispensed in capsules to patients who do not respond sufficiently to other medicines. The ministry has not yet set a date for the project to start as some technical questions need to be resolved, but said there was "good understanding" between the two sides. Geli said patients, who would be included into the programme, could start receiving the drug in the first half of this year.

(Source: Reuters of 1 February 2005)

Germany: Clinical study with cannabis in Crohn's disease

In January 2005 a clinical study on the efficacy of a cannabis extract in Crohn's disease started at the University of Munich. Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestine and many patients are not treated sufficiently with the available medication.

Many patients have reported that they get relief from their symptoms by cannabis products. Basic research by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich supported this experiences. It demonstrated that the cannabinoid system plays an important role in inflammation of the colon (Massa et al. 2004). A synthetic cannabinoid and endocannabinoids prevented an experimental inflammation of the colon in mice.

The study is organized by the ambulance for chronic intestinal inflammations of the medical clinic II of the university under the guidance of Dr. Martin Storr and Dr. Thomas Ochsenkuehn. Patients with a relapse of a chronic intermittent Crohn's disease of medium severity will be included into the study.

(Sources: Press release of the University Hospital of Munich of 3 February 2005; Massa F, et al. J Clin Invest 2004;113(8):1202-9.)

News in brief

Science: Dexanabinol not effective
Pharmos Corporation announced on 20 December results of its phase III clinical study of dexanabinol to treat severe traumatic brain injury. Dexanabinol is a neuroprotecting synthetic cannabinoid. However, it did not demonstrate efficacy as measured by the primary clinical outcome endpoint, the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOSE). The placebo-controlled trial was conducted in 86 trauma centres in 15 countries. 846 patients were available for analysis, 428 treated with dexanabinol and 418 treated with placebo. While efficacy was not established, the trial demonstrated an excellent safety profile for dexanabinol. There were also no differences in mortality between the two groups. (Source: Press release by Pharmos of 20 December 2004)

USA: Oregon
Nearly 10,000 Oregonians carry medical marijuana cards, about 20 times more than officials predicted when the program started six years ago. The program, which gets no money from the state, has grown so fast that it built up a cash surplus of nearly 1 million US Dollars last year. To reduce the surplus, officials reduced the annual fee for a medical marijuana card from 150 to 55 Dollars in January. (Source: The Oregonian of 23 January 2005)

Science: Protection of cartilage
British researchers reported that certain cannabinoids inhibited the production of nitric oxide in cartilage cells and the degradation of proteoglycan. Proteoglycan plays an important role in the functioning of cartilage. The authors conclude that some cannabinoids may protect cartilage and prevent cartilage resorption. (Source: Mbvundula EC, et al. Biochem Pharmacol 2005;69(4):635-40.)

Science: Neuropathic pain
Italian researchers found that AM404, a chemical that blocks the reuptake of anandamide into cells reduces pain effects in an experimental model of neuropathic pain. They conclude that "AM404 could be a useful drug to reduce neuropathic pain." (Source: Rodella LF, et al. EUR J Pharmacol 2005;508(1-3):139-46.)

Holland: Lawsuit
The Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana (SIMM) announced on 3 February that it has filed a lawsuit against the Office of Medical Cannabis of the Health Ministry. The SIMM was one of the two legal providers of medical cannabis for the Office and now believes that the Office of Medical Cannabis has acted unfairly in terminating the contract with the SIMM, leaving Bedrocan the only supplier. SIMM said it made a very large financial investment in order to comply with government standards of producing medicinal cannabis and now has suffered tremendous financial loss. (Source: Press release by SIMM of 3 February 2005)

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