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IACM-Bulletin of 29 October 2006

Italy/Switzerland: Governments plan legal use of cannabis for medicinal purposes

The Italian government has decided that in the future cannabis may be used for the treatment of pain. The parliament has still to hold a vote on this issue. The meassure has "nothing to do with joints" Health Minister Livia Turco stated. The reform can only become into effect after the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved it. The opposition is devided on this question. While the right-wing nationalists accused the government to legalize a soft drug, Chiara Moroni of the party "Forza Italia" of opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi supported the decision of the cabinet.

The lawmaker in Switzerland also made a first step to the possibility of a legal use of cannabis products for medical purposes. The Health Committee of the parliament (Nationalrat) has decided with clear majority to suggest to the parliament to change the narcotics law accordingly, said the physician Felix Gutzwiller, president of the parliamentary party FDP and member of the Health Committee, on 24 October in the news of the Swiss television. He therefore assumes that "there will be also a majority in the Nationalrat for the legalization of cannabis as a medicine."

More at:
tagesschau.sf.tv/nachrichten/archiv/2006/10/24/schweiz/58113
www.netzeitung.de/wissenschaft/447655.html

(Sources: Swiss television of 24 October 2006, Netzzeitung of 20 October 2006)

Science: THC reduces spasticity in patients with spinal cord injury

According to an open label clinical study conducted at the REHAB in Basel, Switzerland, THC was effective in reducing spasticity in 25 patients with spinal cord injury. In three study phases patients received oral THC, rectal THC-hemisuccinate (THC-HS) and/or placebo, each for six weeks. Originally, it was planned to start with an open phase with oral THC followed by an open phase with rectal THC-HS and then a three-way crossover placebo-controlled phase with oral THC and rectal THC-HS. Due to logistical problems with the import of THC-HS Phase 2 had to be stopped after inclusion of seven patients. Phase 3 was changed to a parallel study with oral THC and placebo.

Phase 1 was completed by 15 patients with a reduction in the mean spasticity sum score from 16.7 at baseline to 8.9 on day 43. Mean maximal daily doses were 31 mg oral THC. Reductions with rectal THC-HS were similar (Phase 2) as with oral THC. However, doses were higher with mean maximal doses of 43 mg THC-HS. It was possible to compare seven subjects who received oral THC in Phase 1 and placebo in Phase 3 demonstrating a significant improvement following the cannabinoid.

Major reasons for drop out were increase of pain and psychological side effects. Authors concluded that "THC is an effective and safe drug in the treatment of spasticity. At least 15-20 mg per day were needed to achieve a therapeutic effect."

The abstract is available at:
www.cannabis-med.org/studies/study.php

(Source: Hagenbach U, Luz S, Ghafoor N, Berger JM, Grotenhermen F, Brenneisen R, Maeder M. The treatment of spasticity with Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol in persons with spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord. 2006 Oct 17; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Holland: Patient with multiple sclerosis may grow cannabis for personal use

In a groundbreaking ruling a Dutch court of appeals has decided that a man who is suffering from multiple sclerosis may grow cannabis for personal use to alleviate his pain. The court in Leeuwarden in the north of the country said on 17 October that the interest of the 51 year old patient outweighs the public interest in the current prohibition of growing cannabis.

"This means that other patients may also legally grow their own cannabis," Wim Anker, lawyer of the patient, told the news agency ANP. In 2004, a lower court had sentenced Wim Moorlag and his wife Klasiena Hooijer to pay a fine because of illegal cultivation of cannabis. The couple harvested 300 grams every 15 weeks. Moorlag argued that he could not buy cannabis in a coffee shop because it may be contaminated by fungi and bacteria, which could be dangerous for him as a MS-patient.

More at:
derstandard.at/?url=/?id=2627586

(Source: Der Standard of 17 October 2006)

Science/Spain: A pilot study with Sativex showed positive effects in 65 per cent of patients with chronic diseases

On 20 October the Health Committee of Catalonia presented results of a clinical study with the cannabis extract Sativex in patients with different chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain as well as appetite and weight loss. 65 per cent of the 123 participants experienced an improvement of quality of life and a decrease of pain. The other 35 per cent discontinued the treatment due to side effects, mainly dizziness, dry mouth and fatigue.

It was a pilot study that started in January 2006 in six hospitals in the region of Barcelona. According to the press release of the Health Committee the study demonstrated that cannabis could be an alternative for "patients with severe chronic diseases of different causes that would not well respond to standard medications and would be associated with a decrease of quality of life."

More at:
www.cadenaser.com/articulo/sociedad/65/pacientes/tratados/cannabis/mejoran/csrcsrpor/20061020csrcsrsoc_2/Tes/

(Source: Cadenser.com of 20 October 2006)

Science: THC reduces stomach cramping after eating according to a clinical study by the Mayo Clinic

THC may relax the colon and reduce stomach cramping after eating, according to a study presented at the 71st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology. The study compared the effects of dronabinol (THC) and placebo on colonic motility and sensation in healthy adults.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA, conducted a double-blind, parallel-group study of 52 volunteers who were randomly assigned placebo or a single dose of dronabinol. The researchers found that THC relaxes the colon and reduces post-eating contractions and cramping. Further, the effects were most pronounced in females. "The potential for cannabinoids to modulate colonic motor function in disease deserves a further look," said study leader Dr. Tuba Esfandyari.

More at:
www.acg.gi.org/media/releases/ACG%2006%20Cannabinoids%20and%20Stomach%20Pain.pdf

(Source: Press release by the American College of Gastroenterology of 23 October 2006)

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