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IACM-Bulletin of 04 July 2010

UK: Sativex now available in pharmacies

According to a press release by GW Pharmaceuticals the cannabis extract Sativex is now available in the UK. It is a liquid whole plant extract sprayed into the mouth and used for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Each spray is containing 2.7 mg THC (dronabinol) and 2.5 mg CBD (cannabidiol). Sativex is manufactured by GW at an undisclosed location in the UK. The medicine is being marketed in the UK by Bayer Schering Pharma. According to a press release by Bayer the price for a 10 ml vial is 125 British Pounds (about 150 EURos, about 185 US Dollars).

Each vial of 10 ml of Sativex contains approximately 90 sprays, which means that a vial contains about 243 mg THC. One milligram of THC would cost about 0.62 EURos (about 0.76 US Dollars). The price of Marinol (THC) in the USA depends on package size and is about 2.20 US Dollars per mg (1.80 EURos). The price of THC (dronabinol) in Germany is about 0.80 EURos per mg. The price of 1 gram of cannabis extract of the German company THC Pharm with 630 mg THC, made available to patients with an exemption to use cannabis in Germany is 225 EURos, making 1 mg costing 0.36 EURos. The price of THC in the cannabis variety Bedrocan (19 per cent THC, 9 EURos per gram) sold in Dutch pharmacies is about 0.05 EURos/mg.

More at:
- www.gwpharm.com
- www.gwpharm.com/uploads/sativexconsrelease16.6.10.pdf

(Sources: Press release by GW Pharmaceuticals of 21 June 2010, press release by Bayer Schering Pharma of 21 June 2010, personal communications and internet sources)

News in brief

World: Cannabis use
According to the world report on drugs by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) cannabis remains the world's most widely produced and used illicit substance: it is grown in almost all countries of the world, and is smoked by 130-190 million people at least once a year. Afghanistan is now the world's leading producer of cannabis resin (as well as opium). (Source: Press release by UNODC of 23 June 2010)

Economy/UK: GW Pharmaceuticals
The British company GW Pharmaceuticals and the Japanese company Otsuka Pharmaceutical have signed a three year extension to their global cannabinoid research collaboration. This collaboration was originally signed in July 2007 with a three year term, and the collaboration will now extend to the end of June 2013. Under the research collaboration agreement, GW and Otsuka Pharmaceutical research a range of GW cannabinoids as potential new drug candidates in the field of Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders and oncology. (Source: Press release by GW Pharmaceuticals of 30 June 2010)

Science: Nerve cell formation
According to animal research with mice by scientists from Germany, Switzerland and Mexico CBD (cannabidiol) increases the formation of new nerve cells in adults, while THC had no effect. (Source: Wolf SA, et al. Cell Commun Signal 2010;8(1):12.)

Science: Odour
According to results of a working group of German and Italian scientists the endocannabinoid 2-AG is involved in the sensitivity to odour in frogs (Xenopus laevis). Hunger renders nerve cells responsible for odour more sensitive. (Source: Breunig E, et al. J Neurosci 2010;30(26):8965-73.)

Science: Transplantation
Scientists from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, USA, suggest that cannabinoids may be useful to prevent transplant rejection. They note that the "psychotropic properties of CB1 agonists limit their clinical use, but CB2 agonists may offer a new avenue to selectively target immune cells involved in allograft rejection." (Source: Nagarkatti M, et al. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2010 Jun 28. [in press])

Science: Inflammation
According to research at the University of Aberdeen, UK, the plant cannabinoid THCV (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin) reduced signs of inflammation in a mouse model of inflammation and pain. This effect was partly mediated by cannabinoid receptors. (Source: Bolognini D, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2010;160(3):677-87.)

Science: Colitis
According to research of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, with a rat model of colitis both THC and CBD proved to be beneficial. These beneficial effects of both cannabinoids were additive. (Source: Jamontt JM, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2010;160(3):712-23.)

Science: Natural inhibitor of FAAH
Scientists at the University of Umea, Sweden, investigated the ability of flavonoids to inhibit FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), the enzyme that degrades the endocannabinoid anandamide. Of the compounds tested, biochanin A was adjudged to be the most promising. This flavonoid is highly present in clover (Trifolium pratense). (Source: Thors L, et al. Br J Pharmacol 2010;160(3):549-60.)

Science: Risk of death
Australian researchers reviewed the literature on the question whether cannabis use increases the risk of death. They concluded that there is "insufficient evidence, particularly because of the low number of studies, to assess whether the all-cause mortality rate is elevated among cannabis users in the general population." (Source: Calabria B, et al. Drug Alcohol Rev 2010;29(3):318-30.)

Science: Sepsis
The effects of CBD (cannabidiol) in a rat model of sepsis were investigated by a Brazilian working group. CBD reduced mortality by decreasing oxidative stress in peripheral organs such as liver and kidneys and in the brain. (Source: Cassol-Jr OJ, et al. Brain Res 2010 Jun 15. [in press])

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