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IACM-Bulletin of 31 October 1999

Science: Endocannabinoids in glaucoma

In 1971, it was discovered that the use of marijuana decreases eye pressure, due to the action of its major psychoactive ingredient, THC. A recently completed study was begun by David Pate in 1993 at the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, Finland, to investigate an eyedrop form of anandamide or AEA, an endogenous ligand of the cannabinoid receptor.

It was thought that anandamide might act at an undiscovered cannabinoid receptor in the eye, and regulate eye pressure in the same way as does smoking marijuana, but without providing psychoactive effects. However, AEA does not dissolve in water, and also decomposes very rapidly.

Both of these problems were solved by inserting AEA into a large hollow molecule called cyclodextrin, which carried the AEA into water and protected it from the environment. AEA caused eye pressure to increase and then decrease, which was due to the compound being metabolised by enzymes in the eye. The other undosed eye did not respond, suggesting that regulation of eye pressure by AEA is controlled in the eye itself, rather than centrally by the brain.

A synthetic derivative of the natural anandamide acted to decrease eye pressure directly, without first increasing it, which indicated that this type of molecule was not metabolised by the eye. In addition, pre-treatment by a cannabinoid receptor blocker prevented the latter eyedrop application from working.

This study suggests that anandamide may have a local effect on the regulation of eye pressure. Some synthetic analogs of anandamide are enzymatically stable and decrease eye pressure by their action upon a cannabinoid receptor. Such novel anandamide-type compounds provide clues to a new pharmacological strategy for glaucoma treatment and are the subject of granted and pending international patents that the Finnish research group shares with HortaPharm B.V., a Dutch medical marijuana research and development firm.

(Source: Press release by HortaPharm B.V., D.W. Pate, of 12 October 1999)

Australia: New South Wales government wants to set up a committee on the medical use of cannabis

New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said on 19 October the government was setting up a working party to examine the possibility of using cannabis as prescribed medication for pain relief. However, he was quick to stress the scheme was not a proposal to legalize cannabis use: "That is a separate issue."

The working party has been welcomed by a range of welfare and medical groups. The national call for reform of medical cannabis laws was launched by the Australian Committee for Medical Cannabis (ACMC) on 30 September, supported by the NSW Australian Medical Association and the NSW Law Society.

The committee will consist of representatives of the premier's department, ministries of health and attorney generals, community and expert advisers from the AIDS Council of NSW, the NSW Law Society, the NSW Australian Medical Association, the NSW Cancer Council, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and other experts. The working group is expected to report to Cabinet by July 2000.

Mr Carr said the proposition to allow cannabis onto the prescription list had to be considered on compassionate grounds. "If anyone has ever visited someone recovering from a bout of chemotherapy, racked with pain, unable to stand or sit or lie without the most excruciating discomfort, they would know what I'm referring to," he said.

(Source: AAP of 19 October 1999, personal communication by Timothy Moore, Convenor of the ACMC)

USA: Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in April 2000

On 7 and 8 April 2000 The First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will be held at the University of Iowa. This two-day event will include national and international experts on the topic of cannabis therapeutics. There will be lectures by scientists and lawyers as well information by physicians and patients about their experience with the medicinal use of the plant.

On 7 April the topics will be history, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and AIDS. Among the participants will be Al Byrne, Melanie Dreher, Dr. Jerome Kassirer, Dr. Michael Aldrich, Kevin Zeese, Dr. Rick Musty, Robert Randall, Elvy Musikka, Dr. Kathleen Boyle, and others.

On 8 April the topics will be the state of cannabinoid research, potential health risks, current research and research questions, and the experiences of patients and families. Among the participants will be Dr. David Pate, Dr. Dan Dansak, Dr. Geoffrey Guy, Dr. Denis Petro, Mary Lynn Mathre, Dr. Ethan Russo, Mae Nutt, Pat Skidmore and others.

To insure the information is spread to as many as possible, the University of Iowa will broadcast the conference by satellite to allow other US or EURopean sites to benefit from a local teleconference. The organizers would like to get in contact with anybody who would like to participate, be it a hospital, university, government or private corporation that might be interested. The conference charge to receiving sites is $50 per hour. It is anticipated broadcasting for 14 hours (seven per day) for a reception cost payable to the U. of Iowa of $700.

For more information please contact Al Byrne, Patients out of Time, (Al@MedicalCannabis.com) or Carrie Kiser Wacker, Conference Coordinator, The University of Iowa (carrie-kiser-wacker@uiowa.edu).

(Source: Personal communications by Al Byrne, Patients out of Time)

News in brief

The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that could allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana without being prosecuted. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month told a federal judge to rethink his order that closed down some Northern California medical marijuana clubs, and consider an exemption for patients who face imminent harm without the drug and have no effective legal alternative.
(Source: AP of 28 October 1999)

A kibbutz in Israel wants to cultivate marijuana for medical uses. According to the newspaper "Maariv" the kibbutz Schoval in the Negev desert submitted a corresponding application to the police. The inhabitants of the settlement want to sell the cannabis plants to hospitals. According to the newspaper Health Minister Schlomo Benisri wants to legalize marijuana for medical purposes within the next weeks.
(Source: AFP of 8 October 1999)

On 2 November Maine voters will decide whether marijuana should be allowed for medicinal use. A new poll released on 27 October concluded the medicinal marijuana initiative continues to retain strong support. The ballot question seeking to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for patients with specific illnesses and a doctor's approval was supported by 61 percent of those surveyed. 38 percent opposed the question and only 1 percent were undecided.
(Source: Bangor Daily News of 28 October 1999)

A glimpse @ the past

One year ago

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