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IACM-Bulletin of 03 August 2008

USA: New Mexico is working on rules for manufacturing cannabis for medical use

The Department of Health of New Mexico announced on 24 July that it will hold a public hearing on 8 September to take comments on regulations that would set up rules for patient identification cards and a regulated system for licensing, distributing and manufacturing medical cannabis. The state law that took effect in July 2007 allows the medical use of cannabis for serious illnesses. So far, the department has approved 169 people for medical cannabis.

New Mexico has been careful in drafting its regulations because no other state has developed rules for a distribution and production system, Dr. Alfredo Vigil of the Health Department said. The state proposes two types of licensed producers: a qualified patient who can produce up to four mature plants for personal use only and a non-profit private entity operating a facility limited to 95 mature plants and seedlings at any time. The regulations include measures to prevent unauthorized cannabis use by requiring criminal background checks for applicants and security measures for facilities.

(Source: Associated Press of 24 July 2008)

Science/USA: Rapid rise seen in fatal medication errors at home

Deaths from medication mistakes at home rose dramatically during the past two decades, an analysis of U.S. death certificates finds. The authors blame soaring home use of prescription painkillers and other potent medicinal drugs. The findings, based on nearly 50 million U.S. death certificates, are published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426 in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700 per cent during that time.

In contrast, there was only a 5 per cent increase in fatal medication errors away from home, including hospitals. Abuse of prescription drugs plays a role, but it's unclear how much. Valid prescriptions taken in error, especially narcotics (opioids), account for a growing number of deaths, said experts who reviewed the study. Multiple prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and pain medication taken at once, as well as the intake together with alcohol and illegal drugs also play a part. There were no significant increases in other poisonings like suicidal overdoses or murder.

More at:

(Sources: Associated Press of 29 July 2008; Phillips DP, Barker GEC, Eguchi MM. A steep increase in domestic fatal medication errors with use of alcohol and/or street drugs. Arch Intern Med 2008;168:1561-6.)

Science/UK: According to a report by the British Drug Policy Commission drug law enforcement is not working

In their study "Tackling drug markets and distribution networks in the UK: a review of the recent literature" the UK Drug Policy Commission reported that British illegal drug markets are "extremely resilient" and that increasing seizures of drugs had had only little impact on the availability of illegal drugs. The Drug Policy Commission is a non-governmental institution. Latest figures estimate the size of the UK illicit drug market to be 5.3 billion British Pounds (about 6,7 billion EURos or 10,5 billion US Dollars).

"The authors were unable to locate any comprehensive published UK evidence of the relative effectiveness of different enforcement approaches. They were also not able to identify any published comparative cost-benefit or value-for-money analysis for different interventions within the UK," researchers wrote. Despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds each year on drug enforcement, "there is remarkably little evidence of its effectiveness in disrupting markets and reducing availability," the authors concluded. "Enforcement can have a significant and unintended negative impact on the nature and extent of harms associated with drugs and this should be recognised and minimised," they also noted.

More at:

(Source: UK Drug Policy Commission. Tackling drug markets and distribution networks in the UK: a review of the recent literature. 30 July 2008)

News in brief

Science: Schizophrenia
A Cochrane review was conducted by the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group at the University of Nottingham, UK, to evaluate the effects of cannabis use on people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like illnesses. Only one randomised trial was identified, which did not find a significant effect of cannabis on schizophrenia. Researchers concluded that "at present, there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of cannabis/cannabinoid compounds for people suffering with schizophrenia." (Source: Rathbone J, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;(3):CD004837.)

Science: Schizophrenia
Researchers at Flinders University of Adelaide, Australia, asked patients with schizophrenia, why they used cannabis despite the drug may worsen the course of the disease. Patients responded that they used cannabis for "control of symptoms, to feel normal, perceived improvement in cognitive function, reduced psychological pain and increased energy." Authors noted that "this research has implications for clinical practice as clinicians may lack insight into the importance of the phenomenological beliefs of a person with schizophrenia." (Source: Costain WF. Int J Ment Health Nurs 2008;17(4):227-35.)

Spain: Cannabis harvest
A group called Association of Vigo for the Study of Marijuana (Asociación Viguesa de Estudios de María, AVE María) reported that their collective harvest of cannabis is under way and that some of the cannabis will be given to patients who use it medicinally. The association produces cannabis only for their members. According to decisions by courts in Catalonia and the Basque region in 2006 cannabis clubs such as AVE Maria are legal, since the possession of cannabis for personal use is legal in Spain. (Source: www.farodevigo.es of 1 August 2008)

Science: Neuropathic pain
Researchers of the University of Georgia reported that the selective activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors suppressed neuropathic pain induced by the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel in rats. (Source: Rahn EJ, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2008 Jul 29. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: HEMP foods
US researchers investigated the presence of THC in 79 HEMP products and noted that THC levels in "currently marketed HEMP products are significantly lower than in those products available before 2003". THC concentrations ranged from none detected to 117.5 mg/kg material. No THC was detected in 58 per cent of the products marketed before a change of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) concerning the listing of THC and 86 per cent of the products produced after the change of the CFR. (Source: Holler JM, et al. J Anal Toxicol 2008;32(6):428-32.)

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