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IACM-Bulletin of 14 August 2011

Science: THC reduces motility of the colon in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Researchers at the Clinical Enteric Neuroscience Translational and Epidemiological Research (CENTER) in Rochester, USA, investigated the effects of THC (dronabinol) on colonic motility and sensation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 75 patients with IBS (35 with IBS with constipation, 35 with IBS with diarrhoea, and 5 with IBS alternating between constipation and diarrhoea) were randomly assigned to groups that were given one dose of placebo or 2.5 mg or 5.0 mg dronabinol. Scientists assessed the motility of the colon, tone, and sensation, during fasting and after a meal.

In all patients, THC decreased motility of the large intestine during fasting compared with placebo. The effects of dronabinol were greatest in patients with IBS with diarrhoea or with IBS alternating between them. Dronabinol did not alter sensation or tone. Researchers concluded that in patients with irritable bowel syndrome "dronabinol may provide potential benefit to those (...) with accelerated transit." They further found that variants of the CB1 receptor and the enzyme that catalyses the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), could influence this effect of THC.

(Source: Wong BS, Camilleri M, Busciglio I, Carlson P, Szarka LA, Burton D, Zinsmeister AR. Pharmacogenetic Trial of a Cannabinoid Agonist Shows Reduced Fasting Colonic Motility in Patients with Non-Constipated Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2011 Jul 28. [in press])

Israel: Government approves arrangements for the use of cannabis for medical purposes

On 7 August the Cabinet approved arrangements and supervision regarding the supply of cannabis for medical and research uses. "This is in recognition that the medical use of cannabis is necessary in certain cases," a statement of the government says. On 28 July the Health Ministry decided to establish a unit within the ministry to manage the supervision and supply of medical cannabis and to serve as a cannabis agency for this purpose according to the demands of international treaties. The unit will begin operating in January, 2012.

It was also decided that medical cannabis will continue to be grown in Israel for at least two years, because imports would be tenfold more expensive. Until now, the use of cannabis to relieve pain and provide other relief for patients with severe illness has been supervised and authorized by Dr. Yehuda Baruch, a psychiatrist at a hospital in Bat Yam. Currently, cannabis is supplied exclusively by local growers to some 6,000 patients authorized by Dr. Baruch, but there are estimations that doctor and patient satisfaction is so high that the number could reach 40,000 in 2016.

More at:
- www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2011/08/spokecannabis070811.html
- www.jpost.com/Health/Article.aspx?id=231535

(Sources: Website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, Jerusalem Post of 29 July 2011)

News in brief

USA: Poll on legalization
A majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, according to a poll from Angus Reid Public Opinion published on 9 August. The representative survey of 1,003 adults found that 55 per cent supported legalization, while 40 per cent opposed it. (Source: Angus Reid of 9 August 2011)

Germany/UK: Sativex trial
A trial on the effectiveness of the cannabis spray Sativex of the British company GW Pharmaceuticals in managing chronic cancer pain has been expanded from the USA to EURopean countries (Germany and the UK). It is intended to include more than 1000 patients worldwide in the study. (Source: www.spraytrial.com)

Science: Thrombocytopenic purpura
At the Second University of Naples, Italy, scientists investigated whether certain variants of the CB2 receptor were associated with the risk for thrombocytopenic purpura, a blood disease with a reduced number of platelets. They included 190 children with thrombocytopenic purpura and 600 healthy children and confirmed their hypothesis. (Source: Rossi F, et al. Haematologica. 2011 Aug 9. [in press])

Science: Vomiting
A group of scientists from several countries investigated the mechanisms by which cannabidiol (CBD) inhibit vomiting in animal models. Their results suggest that CBD produces its anti-emetic effects by indirect activation of the so-called somatodendritic 5-HT(1A) autoreceptors in a certain brain region. (Source: Rock EM, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug 9. [in press])

Science: Diabetes
According to research at the University of Turin, Italy, activation of the CB2 receptor improved the function of the kidneys in a mouse model of diabetes. In addition, the CB2 receptor was downregulated in kidney biopsies from patients with advanced damage of the kidney due to diabetes. Researchers assume a protective effect of CB2 receptor signalling in these patients. (Source: Barutta F, et al. Diabetes. 2011 Aug 1. [in press])

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