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IACM-Bulletin of 25 June 2006

Germany: Majority supports medical use of cannabis

There is widespread support among the German population for the use of natural cannabis products in the medical treatment of the severely ill. A large majority also favours that the costs of treatment with dronabinol, the active component of cannabis, are covered by health insurances. This is the result of a study by the Institute for Opinion Polls Allensbach, which was conducted in June. The highest support was found among the better educated and among supporters of smaller parties, i.e. of the Liberals (FDP, Free Democratic Party), the Greens and the Socialists (Left Party). But also among the respondents who completed secondary school and among devotees of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU/CSU) this proportion was above 70 per cent.

According to the results 77 per cent of Germans support allowing a treatment of the severely ill with natural cannabis products, such as marijuana or hashish, provided that a physician recommends the treatment but health insurance declines to pay for a dronabinol treatment. Only 11 per cent of those polled are against this. Also 77 per cent of the Germans support that health insurance cover the cost for a treatment with dronabinol, if there is reasonable evidence for the efficacy of the drug. 7 per cent were against it.

In the representative survey 1438 citizens, aged 16 years or older, were interviewed in person about their knowledge and opinion on the medical use of cannabis products. 69 per cent of the respondents were already aware of the use of cannabis or synthetically manufactured products with the same active agent for medical purposes, while 31 per cent learnt about it for the first time during the interview.

According to the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM), Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, who commissioned the study this was the first representative survey on this subject in a EU country. Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, chairman of the ACM, was very pleased but not too surprised with the results. "In similar surveys in the USA there was a support of between 60 and 70 per cent, in Canada of about 90 per cent," Grotenhermen said. "People are able to differentiate between the medical and recreational uses of cannabis products. Given the unsatisfactory legal situation I wish that the responsible politicians would become pensive. Medical cannabis users should no longer be forced into illegality."

The study of the Institute for Opinion Polls Allensbach on cannabis in medicine is available for download as a pdf file at:
www.cannabis-med.org/german/allensbach.pdf

Science: Leading pain experts name cannabinoids among most promising substances to treating neuropathic pain

Cannabinoids are the most promising approach to treating a common type of pain, according to an elite group of pain specialists convened by MedPanel to discuss the challenges and future of treating neuropathic (nerve injury) pain. The condition is frequently seen in patients with diabetes, cancer, HIV, diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, and after certain surgeries.

"During the summit we asked the group to respond to data pertaining to several novel drug therapies and classes of agents under study, and at the conclusion of the meeting they told us that cannabinoids' potential for a strong analgesic effect, broad action on the central nervous system, reduced side effects and use in combination with other therapies is more exciting to them than several other investigational approaches," said Matt Fearer, Senior Vice President, Content Development for MedPanel. "It appears, however, that an unfortunate sociopolitical climate could delay or prevent the approval of potentially valuable therapies for millions of people suffering from neuropathic pain," he added.

MedPanel, a global organization based in Cambridge, USA, offers a online research platform providing clients strategic direction for investment decisions, product development, and marketing.

(Source: PRNewswire of 21 June 2006)

USA: Multiple Sklerosis Society funds study on cannabis and THC in MS at the University of California

After a study on smoked cannabis and oral THC at the University of California lost funding the MS Society of the United States stepped in and is funding the study to its completion. Dr. Mark Agius and his colleagues developed an objective system to measure muscle activity for their study. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) of the University of California lost financial support after the study was only half done.

The study on the effect of cannabis and THC on spasticity in MS is a placebo-controlled and involves three treatment arms of 20 patients each: inhaled cannabis and oral placebo, inhaled placebo and oral THC, and inhaled placebo and oral placebo. Completion of the study is scheduled for March 2008. This is the first such study funded by the US-American MS Society.

(Source: www.nationalmssociety.org/)

Science: Cannabis use does not increase injury risk

According to a large case-control study of researchers of the University of Missouri in Columbia cannabis did not increase the risk for injury requiring hospitalization. Investigators assessed the association between illegal drug use and injury among adults age 18 to 60. They conducted interviews with 2,161 injured subjects requiring emergency room treatment and 1,856 controls matched for age and gender.

Among cases 27 per cent were injured in a fall, 19 per cent were struck by an object, 18 per cent were in a motor vehicle crash, and the rest were injured by a variety of mechanisms. "Self-reported marijuana use in the previous seven days was associated in this study with a substantially decreased risk of injury," investigators reported. In contrast, use of other illicit drugs and/or recent use of alcohol (in the prior six hours) was associated "with a greatly increased risk of injury."

(Source: Vinson D. Marijuana and other illicit drug use and the risk of injury: a case-control study. Missouri Medicine 2006;103(2).)

News in brief

USA: Presbyterian Church
On 21 June the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the USA supported legal access to medical cannabis for seriously ill patients. By consensus, the denomination passed a resolution "urging Federal legislation that allows for its use and that provides for the production and distribution of the plant for those purposes." (Source: Religion News Service of 22 June 2006)

Science: High blood pressure
According to an article by the Jerusalem Post the group of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, a professor at Hebrew University, created a synthetic version of the phytocannabinoid cannabigerol, which reduces blood pressure in animal experiments with rats. It causes relaxation of the blood vessels and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Yehoshua Maor, a student who works under the supervision of Prof. Mechoulam, was one of the winners of this year's Kaye Innovation Awards, presented on 13 June at the university for his work on the cardiovascular activity of cannabinoids. (Sources: Jerusalem Post of 13 June 2006, eMaxHealth.com of 19 June 2006)

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