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IACM-Bulletin of 12 February 2012

Science/Israel: Cannabis effective in cancer symptoms according to survey

At the Israeli Oncologists Union conference in Eilat in January researchers said more doctors should recommend cannabis to cancer patients. They noted that most cancer patients currently being treated with medical cannabis are advised of the option only in the advanced stages of the illness. More than two-thirds of cancer patients who were prescribed medical cannabis to combat pain are satisfied with the treatment, according to an Israeli study. The study conducted recently at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, in conjunction with the Israel Cancer Association involved 264 cancer patients who were treated with cannabis for a full year.

Some 61 percent of the participants reported a significant improvement in their quality of life, while 56 percent noted an improvement in pain. Researchers found that an average of 325 days passed between cancer diagnoses and the submission for a request to grow or possess cannabis. "The treatment should be offered to the patients in earlier stages of cancer," the report notes. To date, cannabis has been approved for medical use by about 6,000 Israelis suffering from various illnesses, the report states. Health Ministry officials believe that the number of patients treated with cannabis will reach 40,000 in the coming years.

More at:
www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israeli-researchers-say-more-doctors-should-recommend-marijuana-to-cancer-patients-1.409918

(Source: Haaretz of 30 January 2012)

USA: Legalization of medical cannabis use does not increase use in adolescents

Passing laws that legalize the medical use of cannabis in a number of US states decreased past-month cannabis use according to a publication in the journal Annals of Epidemiology by scientists of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in adolescents. They replicated a prior study that found greater adolescent cannabis use in these states and extended this analysis by accounting for confounding factors. Researchers used state-level estimates of cannabis use from the 2002 through 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Cannabis laws decreased past-month use in youth by 0.53 percentage points and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. Authors wrote that their analysis "yielded little evidence that passing MMLs [medical marijuana laws] affects marijuana use." They concluded that there is only "limited evidence of causal effects" of these laws on cannabis use.

(Source: Harper S, Strumpf EC, Kaufman JS. Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Marijuana Use? Replication Study and Extension. Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Jan 27. [in press])

News in brief

USA: Washington State will vote on cannabis legalization
Supporters of legalizing cannabis for recreational use have submitted enough signatures to put the matter to voters in Washington State in November 2012. The proposal, if approved by voters, would allow cannabis sales to people 21 and older, permit state taxes to be collected on the drug, ban cannabis advertising and prohibit driving under the influence of cannabis. (Source: Reuters of 27 January 2012)

Science: THC did not influence colon movements in irritable bowel syndrome
In a controlled clinical study at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA, with 63 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea low doses of dronabinol (2.5 or 5 mg) no treatment effects on transit of food in stomach, small bowel or colon were observed. In patients with a certain variant of the CB1 receptor gene a modest delay in colonic transit was observed. (Source: Wong BS, et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012 Jan 30. [in press])

Science: Medical cannabis laws reduce suicide
According to US researchers the passage of medical cannabis laws in several US states was associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males. Estimates of the relationship between legalization and female suicides are less precise. Authors used state data for the period 1990 through 2007. (Source: Anderson DM, et al. High on life? Medical marijuana laws and suicide. Available at: ftp.iza.org/dp6280.pdf)

Science: Cannabis does not increase suicide risk in schizophrenics
According to research at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, with 821 subjects suffering from schizophrenia there was a significant increase of suicide risk for people with alcohol abuse/dependence, but no increased risk for cannabis abuse/dependence. (Source: McLean D, et al. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2012;46(2):132-40.)

Science: Vomiting due to cannabis
Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA, reported of 98 patients with cannabis hyperemesis. Patients were included if there was a history of recurrent vomiting with no other explanation for symptoms and if cannabis use preceded vomiting. Most used cannabis for more than 2 years before symptom onset. The effect of hot water bathing was documented in 57 patients, and 52 of these patients reported relief of symptoms with hot showers or baths. (Source: Simonetto DA, et al. Mayo Clin Proc 2012;87(2):114-9.)

Austria: Approval of Sativex for multiple sclerosis
The cannabis extract Sativex of the British company GW Pharmaceuticals has received regulatory approval in Austria as a treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. The launch of Sativex is expected to take place during 2012. It will be marketed in Austria by Almirall. Sativex is currently available as a prescription medicine in the UK, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Canada and New Zealand. (Source: GW Pharmaceuticals of 7 February 2012)

Science: CB1 receptor activation may promote diabetic cardiomyopathy
According to animal research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, USA, activation of the cannabinoid-1 receptor promotes cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, inflammation, and fibrosis in diabetic cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy means deterioration of heart muscle function. Scientists used a mouse model of type 1 diabetic cardiomyopathy. They conclude that "CB1 receptor inhibition may be beneficial in the treatment of diabetic cardiovascular complications." (Source: Rajesh M, et al. Diabetes. 2012 Feb 7. [in press])

Science: Curcumin activates CB1 receptors
According to animal research at a university in Teheran, Iran, 4-week treatment with curcumin, similar to the classical antidepressant amitriptyline, resulted in the sustained elevation of brain nerve growth factor (NGF) and endocannabinoids in a dose-dependent manner. This effect was mediated by the cannabinoid-1 receptor. Curcumin is a compound of curry. (Source: Hassanzadeh P, Hassanzadeh A. Neurochem Res. 2012 Feb 7. [in press])

Science: Noladin ether enhances motivation to eat
According to research at the University of Liverpool, UK, with rats the endocannabinoid noladin ether increased food intake and motivation to eat. The animals received injections of the endocannabinoid, which increased food intake in the following 2 hours by activating CB1 receptors. (Source: Jones EK, Kirkham TC. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Feb 6. [in press])

Science: NADA induces cell death in fibrosis inducing cells of the liver
According to research at the University of Bonn, Germany, the endocannabinoid N-arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA) dose-dependently induced cell death in human hepatic stellate cells, but not in normal liver cells. Stellate cells are the main fibrosis inducing cells in the liver. Authors concluded that "the selective induction of cell death in HSCs proposes NADA as a novel antifibrogenic mediator." (Source: Wojtalla A, et al. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012 Feb 2. [in press])

Science: CB2 receptor agonists improve symptoms of liver cirrhosis
According to research at the National University of Taipei, Taiwan, a synthetic CB2 receptor agonist (JWH-015) reduced blood pressure of the portal vein, blood flow in the mesenteric artery and fibrosis in rats with liver cirrhosis. This may reduce the risk for bleeding into the oesophagus. (Source: Huang HC, et al. Hepatology. 2012 Jan 30. [in press])

Science: Cannabis use and dopamine release
According to research at Columbia University in New York, USA, with 16 cannabis users (mean: 517 puffs per month) and 16 control subjects cannabis use is not associated with dopamine release from the striatum, a certain brain region. However, early onset of use and heavy use was related to lower dopamine release. (Source: Urban NB, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Jan 28. [in press])

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