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IACM-Bulletin of 26 November 2006

Holland: The governments of Canada, Germany and Italy are interested in medical cannabis from the Netherlands

According to a letter by Mr. H. Hoogervorst, the Minister for Health, Welfare and Sport of the Netherlands, to the Dutch Parliament of 31 October the Canadian, the German and the Italian governments are interested in medical cannabis produced under supervision of the Health Ministry and sold in pharmacies of the country for distribution to patients in their countries.

In his two-page letter Mr. Hoogervorst described the current situation of the medicinal cannabis project and noted that it will continue for at least one more year. Under certain circumstances, it may continue for another four years. This decision was based on a plan on the development of medicines by a consortium of Dutch companies and on an application for registration by GW Pharmaceuticals for Sativex. It is also important that in the future the costs of the project do no longer exceed the revenues as is currently the case.

So far, less patients than expected buy cannabis from the pharmacies. Additional revenues came from national and foreign companies who bought the plant material for isolation of THC and development of pharmaceutical products. In addition, the Canadian, German and Italian governments expressed their interest in buying Dutch medical cannabis for their patients. Higher revenues from patients and governments or companies would also allow to reduce the price of the pharmacy cannabis for Dutch patients, the minister stated in his letter.

The letter of the Health Minister is available at:
www.minvws.nl/kamerstukken/gmt/2006/medicinale-cannabis.asp

(Sources: Letter of H. Hoogervorst to the president of the second chamber of the Dutch Parliament of 31 October 2006, Newsletter of the Office of Medicinal Cannabis of 24 November 2006)

USA: Tentative ruling in support of the Californian medical cannabis law

A state judge on 16 November rejected San Diego County's challenge of California's decade-old law permitting cannabis use for medical purposes. The ruling by Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt, was tentative. The county's lawyers will have a chance to convince the judge to change his decision during oral arguments.

San Diego County sued the state of California and its health services director in February, saying a federal ban on cannabis use trumps state laws that permit usage of the drug with a physician's approval. Two other California counties, San Bernardino and Merced, joined San Diego as plaintiffs. All three counties have refused to comply with a state requirement that counties issue identification cards for medical cannabis users and maintain a registry of people who apply for the cards.

In his ruling, Nevitt agreed with attorneys for the state, who argued that California is entitled to pass its own drug laws and legislate programs that allow cannabis use for medical purposes.

(Source: Associated Press of 16 November 2006)

Science: Evaluation of herbal cannabis by medical users in controlled study

Canadian researchers conducted a controlled crossover trial of 4 different herbal cannabis preparations among 8 experienced and authorized cannabis users with chronic pain. Preparations were varied with respect to particle size, THC content and humidity. Subjects received each preparation on a separate day and prepared the drug in their usual way. They were asked to evaluate the products based on appearance (smell, colour, humidity, particle size, ease of preparation and overall appearance) and smoking characteristics (burn rate, hotness, harshness and taste). Particle size was defined as the size of the particles after grinding the raw herbal material.

Seven subjects completed the study, and the product with highest THC content (12 per cent), highest humidity (14 per cent) and largest grind size (10mm) was rated highest overall. Significant differences were noted between preparations on subjective ratings of appearance and colour. Researchers concluded that a "more acceptable cannabis product may increase recruitment and retention in clinical studies of medical cannabis." They noted that in September 2006 about 20 per cent of authorized cannabis users obtained herbal cannabis from Health Canada, compared to about 10 per cent in September 2004.

The whole article is available at:
www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/pdf/1477-7517-3-32.pdf

(Source: Ware MA, Ducruet T, Robinson AR. Evaluation of herbal cannabis characteristics by medical users: a randomized trial. Harm Reduct J 2006;3(1):32)

Science: Why cannabis use impairs memory and may help against epilepsy

Scientists may have just found out why cannabis impairs memory and why endocannabinoids might help against epilepsy. Neuroscientists David Robbe and Gyorgy Buzsaki at Rutgers University and their colleagues recorded hippocampus activity in rats. Normally brain cells in this region often synchronize their electrical activity.

When the researchers injected rats with THC or a synthetic cannabinoid, they found the normally synchronized workings of the hippocampus became disrupted. While the cells did not change how often they fired nerve impulses, their timing became erratic.
Imagine an orchestra where the musicians are deafened and perhaps blindfolded, Buzsaki said. Researchers assume that synchronized brain cell activity is crucial for memory formation and think that THC disrupts this synchronized activity.

The scientists suggest the way THC disrupts synchronized brain cell activity might help fight seizures. During seizures, brain activity becomes abnormally strong synchronized.

More at:
www.livescience.com/humanbiology/061119_pot_memory.html

(Sources: LiveScience.com of 19 November 2006, Robbe D, Montgomery SM, Thome A, Rueda-Orozco PE, McNaughton BL, Buzsaki G. Cannabinoids reveal importance of spike timing coordination in hippocampal function. Nat Neurosci. 2006 Nov 19; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

News in brief

Science: Migraine
The levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide in the cerebrospinal fluid are lower in chronic migraine patients compared to healthy subjects. This may help to explain why THC may help in migraine. (Source: Sarchielli P, et al. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Nov 22; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Epilepsy
In an experimental study application of CB1 receptor antagonists to neurons involved in epilepsy caused the development of continuous epileptiform activity. The induction of this activity by CB1 receptor antagonists was reversible and could be overcome by maximal concentrations of CB1 agonists. Authors concluded that endocannabinoids play an important role in the prevention of epilepsy. (Source: Deshpande et al. Neurosci Lett 2007;411(1):11-16.)

Science: Ajulemic acid
In earlier studies ajulemic acid (AJA), a synthetic derivative of THC-COOH was reported to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties without the side effects produced by THC. Researchers of the Virginia Commonwealth University investigated the pharmacology of ajulemic acid. They concluded that AJA, like THC, binds to the CB1 receptor and exhibits psychoactive and therapeutic effects at nearly equal doses in preclinical models, suggesting no advantages over THC. (Source: Vann RE et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2006 Nov 14; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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