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IACM-Bulletin of 19 August 2001

Canada: GW Pharmaceuticals starts clinical trials in Canada

GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company developing cannabis-based medicines for pain relief, said on 14 August it was starting clinical trials in Canada.

The Phase II trial will take place under the supervision of Dr. Daniel DeForge of the Rehabilitation Centre, Ottawa Hospital. It will include sufferers of multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and other forms of chronic pain.

World-wide two institutions are devoloping cannabis based medicines with the aim of pharmaceutical approval.

The Institute for Oncological and Immunological Research, a Berlin-based research institute for medicinal plants, started phase II/III trials in 1999 with capsules containing a standardized cannabis extract. Clinical trials are under way or have recently been completed in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK. The institute intends to advance drug development with cannabis to a certain point and than to enter into license negotiations with a pharmaceutical company.

GW Pharmaceutical, a Salisbury-based firm, started phase II trials in 2000 with under-the-tongue sprays of a standardized cannabis extract in the UK and also intends to expand their trials to other countries.

(Sources: Reuters of 14 August 2001, PA News of 14 August 2001, personal communications)

News in brief

Jamaica: Government commission for legalization
A government commission report released on 16 August recommends legalizing the private use and possession of small amounts of the cannabis by adults. The report by the National Commission for Ganja argues that moderate use of the drug causes no short or long-term health effects among most users. "Marijuana's reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually enhancing substance is so strong that it must be regarded as culturally entrenched," the report says. (Sources: AP of 16 and 17 August 2001)

Science: Pain
Animal research demonstrated that cannabinoids that bind to the CB1 cannabinoid receptor act on a part in the brain (called: nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis pars alpha, GiA) that is important for mitigation of neuropathic pain. (Source: Monhemius R, et al. Brain Res 2001 Jul 10;908(1):67-74)

Germany: Health insurance
German health insurances may refuse to pay for a treatment with dronabinol (THC) prescribed by physicians, a judge of a social welfare tribunal ruled on 9 August in disfavour of a patient with multiple sclerosis from Mannheim. The patient who already tried to obtain legal access to cannabis with a complaint before the Federal Constitutional Court, was denied reimbursement of the treatment costs with dronabinol. A treatment with dronabinol is about 10 times more expensive than treatment with illegal cannabis in Germany. (Source: Personal communication)

USA: Oregon tightens rules
On 10 August Oregon tightened rules doctors must follow under the state's medical-marijuana law, responding to the discovery that a single doctor has signed 40 percent of the state's marijuana applications. Under the new rules, a physician who signs a written statement on behalf of an applicant must maintain an up-to-date medical file for the patient, create and perform a treatment plan. The stricter regulations will apply only to pending and future applications. (Source: Seattle Times of 11 August 2001)

IACM: Frequently asked questions
Every two weeks you will find a new answer to a frequently asked question on the web site of the IACM at "Ask the IACM". Topics already online comprise pregnancy, interactions with other medicines, asthma, chromosomal damage, heart attack, male fertility, migraine, cannabis tincture and Alzheimer's disease. Next to come: urine tests, risks of cannabis smoking.

Science: Intraocular pressure
THC lowers intraocular pressure. This effect was substantially attenuated by local pre-treatment with indomethacin, suggesting that THC may influence intraocular pressure at least in part by a prostaglandin-mediated process. Indomethacin is a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and is already known to reduce psychic effects and tachycardia caused by THC. (Source: Green K, et al. Ophthalmic Res 2001 Jul-Aug;33(4):217-20)

Science: Cannabinoid receptors
Cannabinoid receptors have been reported to exist in mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, sea urchins, leeches, mussels, and Hydra polyps but they seem to be absent in insects. (Source: McPartland J, et al. J Comp Neurol 2001 Aug 6;436(4):423-9)

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