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IACM-Bulletin of April 3, 2016


Science/Human — Cannabis reduces the stretch reflex in patients with multiple sclerosis

In a clinical study with 57 patients with multiple sclerosis cannabis reduced the stretch reflex, Italian researchers wrote in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology. They also observed a reduction in a numeric rating scale for spasticity and spasticity according to the modified Ashworth scale. There was a low concordance between the three measures, which according to authors was “likely related to the different aspects of muscle hypertonia assessed.”

Stretch reflex responders were taking a significantly higher number of sprays of the cannabis extract Sativex, “suggesting that a higher dosage would add benefit if tolerated. The present study confirms the efficacy of cannabinoids in reducing spasticity in patients with MS, suggesting a higher sensitivity and specificity of the stretch reflex compared with other measures.”

Marinelli L, Mori L, Canneva S, Colombano F, Currà A, Fattapposta F, Bandini F, Capello E, Abbruzzese G, Trompetto C. The effect of cannabinoids on the stretch reflex in multiple sclerosis spasticity. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2016 Mar 21. [in press]

Canada — The right to grow cannabis for their own remains legal for patients

Medical cannabis patients in Canada will regain the right to grow their own cannabis after the government said on 24 March it would comply with a federal court decision against a ban introduced by the previous Conservative government.

The federal government said Canada's medical cannabis laws would be rewritten to reflect the court's judgment, setting a deadline of 24 August to finalize the changes. "We are committed, as you know, to making sure that Canadians who require marijuana for medical purposes have appropriate access to that," Health Minister Jane Philpott told reporters in Ottawa, adding that the current law will remain in place until the changes are finalized. Philpott did not provide specifics on the planned amendments.

Reuters of 24 March 2016

Brazil — Government allows prescription and importation of products with CBD and THC

The National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) authorized the prescription and importation of medicines and products with cannabidiol (CBD) and / or tetrahydrocanabidiol (THC), the main cannabinoids of the cannabis plant. The authorization was issued by Resolution 66 of Anvisa, published on 21 March in the Official Gazette.

In practice, from now THC will also be regulated. Before, THC was only allowed, when it was present in an approved medicinal product. “With this resolution I can import a medicine, which only contains THC”, explains Norberto Fischer, activist and father of Anny, who has a severe type of epilepsy. “The fact that the regulation is advancing means that the society is changing its mind and reducing prejudice about medical marijuana.”

O Globo of 21 March 2016

USA — War veterans are increasingly using cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

A growing number of states are weighing whether to legalize cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But for many veterans, the debate is already over. They're increasingly using cannabis even though it remains illegal in most states and is unapproved by the Department of Veterans Affairs because major studies have yet to show it is effective against PTSD.

While the research has been contradictory and limited, many former members of the military say cannabis helps them manage their anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. Prescription drugs weren't effective or left them feeling like zombies, some say. "I went from being an anxious mess to numbing myself with the pills they were giving me," said Mike Whiter, a 39-year-old former Marine who lives in Philadelphia, where cannabis is illegal. "Cannabis helped me get out of the hole I was in. I started to talk to people and get over my social anxiety." Others, though, have seen little benefit from the drug. of 22 March 2016

News in brief

Science/Human — Cannabis use reduces use of opioids in chronic pain patients

The medical use of cannabis reduced the amount of opioids by 64% according to a questionnaire completed by 244 patients of a medical cannabis dispensary in Michigan.

School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

Boehnke KF, et al. J Pain. 2016 Mar 18. [in press]

Science/Human — A new FAAH inhibitor was shown to be safe in healthy subjects

In a phase 1 study with 51 healthy male subjects V158866, a reversible FAAH inhibitor, was shown to be safe and well tolerated. FAAH, fatty acid amide hydrolase, is responsible for the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide. V158866 increases anandamide levels.

Vernalis, Winnersh, UK.

Pawsey S, et al. Drugs R D. 2016 Mar 17. [in press]

Israel/USA — US companies invest into research of the medical use of cannabis in Israel

Israel is starting to attract American companies looking to bring medical cannabis know-how to a booming market back home. Since 2014, U.S. firms have invested about 50 million US dollars in licensing Israeli medical cannabis patents. This number is expected to further increase since it is much easier to do research with cannabis in Israel than in the USA.

Reuters of 29 March 2016

Uruguay — Government and pharmacies agree on the sale of cannabis

The government of Tabare Vazquez and the pharmacies associations agreed on conditions for the sale of cannabis for recreational use. After the law came into force in May 2014, the sale in pharmacies was not organized, yet. Pharmacies will be able to store 2 kilograms of cannabis.

Clarin of 19 March 2016

Holland — Justice Minister comments on the acquittal of a patient, who grew his own cannabis

Commenting on the acquittal of a HIV patient, who grew large amounts of cannabis to treat his medical condition, by the Amsterdam District Court Justice Minister Van der Steur said that he sees no reason to change the laws to allow self-cultivation of cannabis by patients and that the company Bedrocan wants to bring a new cannabis strain on the market this year, which is currently known under the name Amnesia.

Questions in the Second Chamber of Parliament.

USA — Cannabis will be available for terminally ill patients in Florida

On 25 March Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that would expand the state’s Right to Try Act to include the medical use of cannabis. The expansion means that terminally ill patients will now be able to use medical cannabis during their final days. Under the bill licensed dispensing organizations can grow and distribute medical cannabis derived from the whole plant — not just the low-THC products allowed since 2014 — to terminal ill patients.

Florida Politics of 25 March 2016

Belgium — Drug Reformer Joep Oomen dead at 54

Joep Oomen, a key figure in European drug reform efforts and head of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), has died unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Antwerp, Belgium. He was found by colleagues dead in bed on 18 March. He was 54 years old. “He was a friendly, intelligent and committed person”, said Dr Franjo Grotenhermen, Executive Director of the IACM. “He was always very interested in the issue of medical cannabis. We have lost an extraordinary personality and I have lost a friend.”

Encod of 21 March 2016

Science/Animal — CBD causes rapid anti-depressant effects

In a mouse model of depression researchers found “that CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signalling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism.”

Universidad de Cantabria, Spain.

Linge R, et al. Neuropharmacology 2016;103:16-26

Science/Animal — The endocannabinoid system is important for sleep stability

Several experiments with mice show that endocannabinoid signalling through CB1 receptors is necessary for NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep) stability. NREM, is, collectively, sleep stages 1–3. REM sleep (Rapid eye movement sleep) is not included. Unlike REM sleep, there is usually little or no eye movement during these stages.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, USA

Pava MJ, et al. PLoS One 2016;11(3):e0152473

Science/Human — Scientists find genetic variants, which increase the risk for cannabis dependence

In a large group of 14,745 participants researchers found genetic characteristics, which increased the risk for cannabis dependence (CAD). They wrote that “these results are the first, to our knowledge, to identify specific CAD risk alleles and potential genetic factors contributing to the comorbidity of CAD with major depression and schizophrenia.”

Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, USA.

Sherva R, et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Mar 30. [in press]

Science/Human — Genetic risk factors for cannabis use

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data of 13 cohorts with 32,330 participants. They wrote that “this is the largest meta-analysis of cannabis GWA studies to date, revealing important new insights into the genetic pathways of lifetime cannabis use.”

Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Stringer S, et al. Transl Psychiatry 2016;6:e769.

Science/Animal — CBD was more effective than THC in neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid cancers in children. In studies with human neuroblastoma cells and mice CBD showed more anti-cancer effects than THC.

Sheba Cancer Research Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel.

Fisher T, et al. Curr Oncol 2016;23(2):S15-22.

Science/Animal — Reduced blood supply to the brain results in dramatic increase in 2-AG

Stop of blood supply to the brain for 5 minutes results in a 3.5-fold increase of the endocannabinoid 2-AG concentrations.

School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA.

Brose SA, et al. Lipids. 2016 Mar 28. [in press]

Science/Animal — The analgesic effects of CB2 receptor activation are increased by carbon monoxide

A substance (CORM-2), which causes the release of carbon monoxide in the body increases the pain reducing effects of a synthetic cannabinoid that activates the CB2 receptor in diabetic mice.

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Castany S, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2016 Mar 29. [in press]

Science/Animal — Bisphenol A causes fatty liver by enhancing the endocannabinoid system

In experiments with zebra fish and human liver cells bisphenol A was shown to produce fatty liver by upregulating the endocannabinoid system. Bisphenol A is a common compound of plastics.

Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy.

Martella A, et al. Endocrinology. 2016 Mar 25:en20151384. [in press]

Science/Human — Cannabis use is associated with a low increase of the risk for psychological distress in women

In a group of 19,327 men and women aged 18-84 years cannabis use was associated with no significant change in psychological distress 8 years later in men, but with a low increase of distress (27%) in women.

Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

Danielsson AK, et al. Addict Behav 2016;59:18-23.

Science/Animal — CBD shows antidepressant effects

In a study with rats with depressive-like behaviour CBD was shown to have antidepressant effects. Authors wrote that antidepressant effects of CBD were “shown for the first time in a genetic animal model of depression. These results suggest that CBD may be beneficial for the treatment of clinical depression and other states with prominent anhedonia.”

Geha Mental Health Center, Petah Tiqva, Israel.

Shoval G, et al. Neuropsychobiology 2016;73(2):123-9.

Science/Animal — The CB2 receptor is involved in the neuroprotective effects of leptin

In a mouse model of traumatic brain injury the administration of the hormone leptin was neuroprotective and reduced neurological deficits. Activation of the CB2 receptor was involved in the mechanism of action.

Complutense University, Madrid, Spain;

Lopez-Rodriguez AB, et al. Exp Neurol. 2016 Mar 19. [in press]

Science/Human — Genetically caused high anandamide levels may damage the response to stress

In 858 subjects from the general population genetic variants, which are associated with permanently elevated anandamide levels, were associated with an increased score of depression. Authors wrote that their results “suggest that permanently elevated anandamide level together with early life stress may cause a lifelong damage on stress response probably via the downregulation of CB1R during the neurodevelopment in the brain.”

Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.

Lazary J, et al. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Mar 9. [in press]

Science/Animal — Endocannabinoids improve depression

Inhibition of endocannabinoid degradation by inhibition of the enzyme monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) reduced depression in a mouse model for depression. Authors wrote that MAGL inhibitors “represent a new class of rapidly-acting and long-lasting antidepressants.”

University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, The Royal, Canada.

Wang Y, et al. Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Mar 22. [in press]