Medical Marijuana Gets Backing

Medical Marijuana Gets Backing
Posted by CN Staff on February 08, 2005 at 08:04:02 PT
By Jeanne Whalen, Staff Reporter
Source: Wall Street Journal 
As some popular painkillers come under fire for causing dangerous side effects, an often-shunned alternative is gaining legitimacy in pain relief: cannabis.Medical marijuana has been winning legal endorsement through the efforts of a British pharmaceutical firm. GW Pharmaceuticals of Salisbury, England, has spent years developing and promoting a cannabis-based mouth spray that the company claims eases severe pain and muscle stiffness without causing a psychotropic high.
Winning the backing of health authorities has been an uphill battle, but Canadian officials recently gave it preliminary approval for treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis sufferers. Studies concluded not long ago also showed the product effective at treating severe cancer pain.Now GW is aiming for approval in the United Kingdom, and longer-term, in the U.S., where medical marijuana is likely to come up against greater resistance. "The deepness and polarity of the [marijuana] debate in the U.S. is unique," acknowledges Geoffrey Guy, executive chairman of GW. GW hopes the Canadian approval "will force the U.S. to address this issue once and for all and make a decision," says Managing Director Justin Gover. If the product is approved in more markets, GW believes it one day could be used by a million patients suffering from pain associated with MS, cancer and other ailments.The treatment, called Sativex, is an extract of a hybrid form of cannabis grown by GW. The company says the plants are specially bred to remove most of the psychotropic agents and to increase the presence of helpful properties such as cannabidiol. The company, which won a special license from the U.K. to breed cannabis and carry out research, grows 50,000 plants every year in greenhouses in a location it keeps secret so as to avoid curiosity seekers, protesters and potheads.Founded in 1998 to research the medicinal uses of cannabis, GW is traded on the London Stock Exchange. The company has a few other cannabis-derived products in early development.Richard Payne, a 56-year-old Briton with multiple sclerosis, began taking Sativex three years ago as part of a clinical trial and says the medicine helps relieve his muscle stiffness and gives him better bladder control. It also has alleviated the violent muscle spasms that used to keep him awake at night.Finding the Right Dosage"When I was finding a level that suited me I did get in an intoxicated state once," he says, but he's since decreased the dosage, as he believes most pain sufferers would. "If you took all your eight-week supply in a few days you'd probably be very high," he says. "But I think people who suffer MS would rather have a better quality of life for eight weeks than have a couple of days where you don't know what's going on in the world."In late December, Canada's health agency issued what it calls a "qualifying notice" for the approval of Sativex to treat neuropathic pain in MS patients. The de facto approval will become official once GW submits extra forms agreeing to certain conditions, including an obligation to carry out additional clinical trials with the product. GW says it expects its partner, Bayer AG, to begin marketing Sativex within a few months in Canada, where 50,000 people have MS.Canadians, who legalized smoked marijuana for those with "grave and debilitating illnesses" in 2001, have a fairly accepting attitude toward the cannabis plant. The fact that British officials gave GW permission to grow and test its product in Britain gives the company hope that it may win approval there, too, possibly as soon as this summer.The U.S. will be a harder sell. Under the classification system of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as having "no currently accepted medical use." That hasn't stopped gravely ill patients from smoking it on the sly, and in recent years 11 states have defied federal law by making marijuana legal for medicinal use. California was the first, passing its 1996 Compassionate Use Act after heavy lobbying by AIDS patients and others. Last year, Montana and Vermont became the latest states to pass similar laws.The Bush administration says the state laws interfere with federal efforts to combat illegal drugs and has sought to overturn them. In 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the home of a California woman who was growing marijuana to treat her lower-back pain. The woman and a colleague filed a lawsuit against the federal government, a case that has worked its way up to the Supreme Court. The court began hearing the case, Ashcroft v. Raich, last year, and is expected to rule in July.Doesn't Give a HighGW hopes Sativex will avoid similar controversy because it isn't smoked and, when used properly, doesn't give a high. The company has spent several years explaining its product in meetings with key U.S. officials and says it hopes to open discussions with the Food and Drug Administration in the coming months. As a first step, GW is aiming to win FDA permission to carry out a clinical trial of Sativex on American patients.An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment on Sativex's prospects for approval. Last summer, Robert J. Meyer, a director of the FDA's office of drug evaluation, told a congressional committee that the FDA would "continue to be receptive to sound, scientifically based research into the medicinal uses of botanical marijuana and other cannabinoids" and would "facilitate the work of manufacturers interested in bringing to the market safe and effective products."Sativex's approval in Canada won't make the product easily available to Americans driving over the border. The medicine will be available only by prescription in Canada and will be illegal back in the U.S.Several years ago, the FDA approved a medicine called Marinol that is made from a synthetic copy of a compound found in cannabis. The medicine, sold by Solvay SA of Belgium, is used to treat appetite loss and weight loss in AIDS patients. Other drug companies also are working on synthetic compounds that mimic cannabis, including Indevus Pharmaceuticals, which is testing such a product in late-stage human trials. Because Sativex is made from pure cannabis extract, it will be a harder sell.Note: In Canada, Mouth Spray Wins Preliminary Approval; U.K. and U.S. Tests Loom.Source: Wall Street Journal (US) Author: Jeanne Whalen, Staff Reporter for the WSJPublished: February 8, 2005; Page D7Copyright: 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: wsj.ltrs Website: Related Articles & Web Site:GW Pharmaceuticals Prescribing The Miracle Weed Painkiller Hope for Cancer Patients Canada Approves Cannabis Drug
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Comment #12 posted by afterburner on February 09, 2005 at 19:23:16 PT
Montel for marijuana: Link to Truth
Montel for marijuana 
by Brooke Thorsteinson (09 Feb, 2005) TV talk show host advocates medical pot for pain.
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Comment #11 posted by charmed quark on February 09, 2005 at 17:54:11 PT
You're right, of course, there is no profit in regular botanicals, at least not the type of profits the drug companies expect. So little research goes on. Except, of course, the drug institutes studies trying to find harms.However, GW Pharm has a patent on both their clones and their delivery system. So it's not much difference from any other pharmacological drug, profit wise.-CQ
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on February 09, 2005 at 12:27:41 PT
I wanted to add that I agree with you.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on February 09, 2005 at 11:01:27 PT
The plant is natural and nature is free. Money is important I understand but so is freedom and in a captalistic society being smart about how to spend money should be a good thing too. 
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Comment #8 posted by schmeff on February 09, 2005 at 09:16:21 PT
Notice the last sentence: Because Sativex is made from pure cannabis extract, it will be a harder sell.A harder sell to the FDA. The first sentence of the article, "As some popular painkillers come under fire for causing dangerous side effects..." suggests that the consumers would prefer more natural...less synthetic. The main consideration is to deny us relief for free or at low cost when we can be bled for high profits. "Nature can provide for the needs of people; [she] can't provide for the greed of people." -Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) I don't think it's wholly a culture war. The main factors, I think, are greed, and good old-fashioned Amerikan puritanism/fundamentalism/talibanism/wahabiism/intolerance/controlfreakism... A high percentage of the Amerikan Taliban believes that our purpose here on earth is to suffer, that we may earn a place in 'heaven'. (Until it's THEIR turn to suffer, of course.)
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Comment #7 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 09, 2005 at 03:57:08 PT
The Wall Street Journal?!
Anyone with common sense who reads this article can come to the conclusion that marijuana obviously helps people with pain and other medical conditions. There's no such thing as bad publicity, even in the Wall Street Journal. Investors read this newspaper for clues to investment ventures. Who knows, maybe we'll get some big investment bucks behind the development, regulation and distribution of marijuana.
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Comment #6 posted by charmed quark on February 08, 2005 at 17:02:32 PT
It's all cultural wars, I believe
The US is "unique" in it's vehemence against cannabis because it's really not about the drug but is about an ongoing cultural war where cannabis is a symbol.A shame, really, as it is holding back its medical applications not just in the USA but the rest of the world as the US exerts pressure against other countries.Its most importance use will be for pain. It is so much safer than other pain drugs. You can use cannabis to boost the effects of very small amounts of narcotics and/or NSAIDs to get a level of pain control that is not accheivable any other way, especially for certain types of pain such as "nerve" pain. It is very possible to do this wihtout a noticible cannabis "high", although I think the high in some cases adds additional relief.It's almost criminal the way the US is trying to prevent the medical utilization of this drug. In many parts of the world people can barely afford aspirin but could grow cannabis for free. But the US pressures such countries to criminalize it.-CQ
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on February 08, 2005 at 16:46:49 PT
Control Is an Illusion
"Life is chaos. Chaos is life. Control is an illusion." --Trance Gemini, "Forced Perspective," Andromeda (TV)
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Comment #4 posted by Justgetnby on February 08, 2005 at 15:52:55 PT
Felony Feeling Good
Does anybody notice the second theme in this whole article?First theme- this really is real medicine that helps people 
who are really ill in a real way.Second theme- We promise that NO-BODY will feel good or enjoy the experience of taking this medicine, and if they do have a nice experience, they have ABUSED the medicine!Can anybody here say, SALEM WITCH TRIALS .Can anybody here say, TALIBAN .Can anybody here say, WHAT BUSINESS OF THE GOVT. IS IT, HOW I FEEL.  I'm done with these folks.....
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on February 08, 2005 at 09:26:41 PT
You really make me laugh! Thanks so much!!!!
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Comment #2 posted by goneposthole on February 08, 2005 at 09:18:54 PT
What the world needs now...
is bud, sweet bud... that's the only thing that there is just too little of...It goes something like that.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on February 08, 2005 at 08:48:22 PT
I love the whole tenor of this article. The corporations & government bureaucrats are all tied up in knots on this one. "only available by prescription in Canada, can't drive to Canada to get it, etc."The WSJ apparently doesn't think it's worth mentioning that 96 MILLION Americans have already used the "drug"!!! It's one of the most widely-used consumer products in the United States. But no, ignore the man behind the curtain!  War is peace! As long as you control your thoughts & only think what the government tells you, you'll be fine.
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