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IACM-Bulletin of 26 June 2005

Canada: Sativex now available in pharmacies

Since 20 June Sativex, a cannabis extract produced by GW Pharmaceuticals and distributed by Bayer Health Care, is available in Canada by prescription for the treatment of neuropathic pain in adults with multiple sclerosis. In April 2005, Canada became the first country in the world to approve Sativex.

The cost of Sativex per vial is 124.95 Canadian Dollars (about 83 EURos or 101 US-Dollars). Each vial contains approximately 51 sprays. Its principal active components are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). The ratio of THC to CBD in Sativex is 2.7 mg : 2.5 mg per spray. One milligram of THC would cost about 0.90 Canadian Dollars (about 0.60 EURos or 0.73 US-Dollars). The price of Marinol (THC) in the USA depends on package size and is about 2.20 US-Dollars per mg (1.82 EURos). The price of THC (dronabinol) in Germany is about 0.80 EURos per mg. The price of THC in the variety Bedrobinol (18 per cent THC, 9 EURos per gram) sold in Dutch pharmacies is 0.05 EURos/mg.

(Sources: Press release of Bayer Health Care Canada of 20 June 2005, comment of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada of 20 June 2005)

Science: International group investigates efficacy of cannabis in migraine and rheumatism

The EURopean Union funds an international research project on the efficacy of cannabis in migraine and rheumatoid arthritis with 1.5 million EURos (about 1.8 million US-Dollars).

University laboratories and companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Finland participate in the project. Among them are institutes at the universities of London, Cordoba, Novara, Freiburg and Berne, as well as the Dutch Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Office for Medicinal Cannabis of the Dutch Health Ministry and the companies Cerebricon, VivaCell Biotechnology and William Ransom & Son. The project will be coordinated by Dr. Michael Heinrich, professor at the London School of Pharmacy.

On 15 to 17 June the group met in Freiburg, Germany for the first time since their kick-off meeting in London for exchange of initial results. Researchers plan to investigate three cannabis varieties, among them the two varieties that are already available in Dutch pharmacies. Within two years the scientists plan to develop cannabis extracts that will also be provided to other researchers for clinical studies.

(Sources: Press release by the University Hospital of Freiburg of 16 June 2005, personal communications)

USA: Federal agents raided medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco

Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical marijuana dispensaries on 22 June as part of a broad investigation into marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical cannabis advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug's use by sick people was beginning.

About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said. In a separate investigation, a federal court in Sacramento indicted Dr. Marion P. Fry, and her husband, Dale C. Schafer, on charges of distributing cannabis at the doctor's office. Both pleaded not guilty to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 marijuana plants.

The raids and arrests were the first large-scale actions against marijuana clubs and providers since the Supreme Court upheld federal authority over marijuana on June 6, even in states like California, where its use for medicinal purposes has been legal since 1996. The raids involved agents from federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service.

(Source: New York Times of 23 June 2005)

Canada/USA: Renee Boje faces court hearing in September

On 16 June Renee Boje, a cannabis activist from California, who is searching refugee status in Canada, was denied her appeal by Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. He ordered Boje to turn herself in to federal authorities to face extradition to the United States.

Boje had been free on bail in Canada while she appealed a February 2000 British Columbia Supreme Court decision ruling that she be extradited to the United States to face charges for her alleged role in a 1997 California marijuana case involving over 1,000 cannabis plants. In the United States, Boje could face a mandatory sentence of up to ten years in prison.

She surrendered herself to the custody of Canadian authorities on 17 June, not knowing if a US extradition request would be honored and she would be taken away from her husband, son, and friends in Vancouver where she has lived for nearly eight years. After a hearing in a Vancouver federal court, however, Boje was released from jail on bail. A judge had ruled that Minister Cotler's decision should be reviewed by the Canadian court system in September.

(Source: Cannabis Culture of 17 Jun, 2005, www.cannabisculture.com)

News in brief

USA: House of Representatives against medical use
On 15 June the U.S. House of Representatives refused to allow severely ill people to use cannabis. By a vote of 264-161, the House rejected a measure that would have stopped federal law enforcement authorities from prosecuting medical marijuana users in 10 states that allow it when prescribed by doctors. This marked the third time since 2003 that the House has defeated the initiative. However, the number of supporters increased steadily, this year by 13 votes. (Source: Reuters of 15 June 2005)

USA: Rhode Island
A bill that would allow patients with serious diseases to use and grow cannabis passed the House of Representatives 52 to 10 on 22 June. If approved, Rhode Island would become the 11th state of the USA to authorize the medical use of cannabis. However, Governour Don Carcieri has threatened to veto the legislation. But supporters hope that the bill had enough votes to override a veto. "We hope that the governour realizes that the people of Rhode Island support this bill," said Thomas Slater, the bill's main sponsor. (Source: Associated Press of 22 June)

Science: Depression
In an internet survey conducted by researchers of the University of Southern California cannabis use was associated with a decrease in depression. More than 4400 adults completed a questionaire. Those who used cannabis once per week or less had less depressed mood, more positive affect, and fewer somatic complaints than non-users. Daily users reported less depressed mood and more positive affect than non-users. Researchers conclude that "these data suggest that adults apparently do not increase their risk for depression by using marijuana." (Source: Denson TF, Earleywine M. Addict Behav 2005 Jun 17; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Cannabinoid receptor antagonist
In animal experiments with rats the effects of the CB1 receptor antagonist AM 251 on feeding behaviour were investigated. The drug dose-dependently decreased food intake and induced nausea. Researchers conclude that the antagonist "may reduce food intake in part by inducing nausea or malaise." (Source: McLaughlin PJ, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2005;180(2):286-93.)

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